Thursday, July 21, 2016

Caroline Larsen

I drove to Wave Hill (one of NYC's best kept secrets) with Caroline Larsen and her husband in early April for the opening of her show "Fruit and Foliage." The weather was just beginning to feel hopeful and Larsen's succulent paintings made the tulips outside the main house burst brighter and bigger than ever. A couple months later, on the cusp of summer, she had a show open at The Hole on Bowery. In "KaBloom" Larsen's panels brought the cool air of the post rainstorm tropics and a desert's crisp night to our already sweaty Manhattan streets. You might find the same escapes I do if you follow Caroline's work. And it isn't just her paintings that bring relief; after a long day together in her studio, followed by a night of openings and beers, I was left feeling especially uplifted.




The piercing colors and high contrasts of Larsen's paintings stun you into submission before beginning the process of hypnosis with their intricately built tapestries of oil. In long pastry bags filled with oozing paint, Larsen has perfected her application by slowly squeezing out color onto panels that have been marked off to contain varying organic shapes and architectural formations. She will often use two pigments side by side in the bags to seriously optimize the vibrancy of her colors. The highs and lows of a leaf's pattern gets spelled out in molecular detail. Croton plants tangle up with hibiscus flowers and bananas trees as they drench her panels with varying greens, tangerine oranges, and ripe yellows. Sometimes her paintings are completely taken over by fauna, like a flourishing, but unmanaged garden. Other times she exaggerates the xeriscaping of a Southern California home with exuberance. The glistening cool blues of her swimming pools are enough to make you salivate. In her recent show (still up at the Hole), there are sunset-lit mountain tops hit with zig-zags of deep purples and reds and paintings of cars that have been set ablaze with fire. The contrast of the naturalism of light on a mountain and the horrors of man-made destruction calls attention to the ways humans are destroying the very beauty she is depicting so well.


 Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
 Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
Mutual understandings of lizards, sunsets, humidity, and florescent colors forged our bond when we first met a few years back and realized we both spent our teens in Florida. That might also be why we left her studio before sundown for a cold beer and fun times. It was an altogether lovely day. Caroline's show at The Hole is up until July 24th, and her show at Wave Hill is up until August 28th. To see more of her work go to http://carolinelarsen.com/home.html.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Adam Parker Smith

 I have always thought that art, or at least the personality of an artwork, resembles its creator in one way or another — sort of the dog and their owner theory. Case in point: Adam Parker Smith. His current show, "Oblivious the Greek," up now at The Hole NYC, is a playfully sharp body of work that uses just the right amount of social sarcasm to keep the viewer from feeling made fun of. I swung by to make a drawing a couple weeks before the show was complete. Like parts of Frankenstein before his assembly, balloons collected on the floor halfway between their helium release and their new life as artwork. It was a complicated, but rewarding, mess to draw; a real behind-the-scenes experience.




Smith uses objects that overflow the shelves of party supply stores and suburban mega-marts to build his sculptures. You'll only find fake marble and plant-life tangled up in these pop explosions, nothing that is actually derived from the earth, as opposed to the Greek sculptures that he alludes to in the title of his show. With the work laid out in the middle of the gallery space like a sculpture garden, the viewer is encouraged to weave in and out of the gigantic forms before discovering their hollow backs. On the walls hang collections of celebration: everything from the brightly colored wacky noodles that  we float mindlessly around on in swimming pools to the dust covered display cakes that sit in the windows of Lower East Side bake shops. While experiencing the sheer joyousness of the works' bright and shiny character, Adam leaves you with room to consider their somewhat ominous familiarity. What makes our society tick? Crappy pretend stuff. Baudrillard argues that a simulacrum is not a copy of the real, but becomes truth in its own right. There is a whole lot of truth in these pieces. Smith's large scale sculptures encourage a poignant kind of self reflection while still managing to make that contemplation fun.
                                                              Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
 Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
                                                      Image Courtesy of The Hole NYC
I was able to partake in the after party for Adam and painter Caroline Larsen's openings at The Hole a few weeks back. As energetic as the work itself, the table overflowed with pop conversation, boisterous karaoke, and amazing Chinese food. A proper celebration and a night to remember. Smith is in a group show at Eric Firestone Gallery that opens July 16th in the Hamptons, and his show at The Hole NYC is up until the 24th of July. To see more of his work go here http://www.adamparkersmithwork.com/

Friday, June 24, 2016

Adrianne Rubenstein

 Before heading to Adrianne Rubenstein's current solo show at White Columns I went to see the Philip Guston show at Hauser and Wirth. The idea was to pair paintings that were made over fifty years ago with some of the most intriguing paintings of 2016, fresh out of Rubenstein's studio. Both painters are natives of Montreal who eventually landed in New York, but this isn't the only parallel I drew. There is a fearless oomph behind their mark-making, and out of that oomph (after a lengthy stare) bizarre and amorphous forms begin to appear. The grappling that went on between figuration and abstraction in the 1960's, in Guston's studio, is not only relevant today, but still happening right here in a studio in Brooklyn.



Adrianne had just landed back in the US from Zurich when I continued my exploration of her work while drawing her studio. Exposing her viewers to a world reinvented with each new panel, I landed on all kinds of trippy things as I took them in: house-sized vegetables, flying peanuts, and texts that slither out of your sight like serpents and make up puzzling Haiku. Her gestures go from fine and succinct to large and sweeping and use light pinks and cherry reds to offset grassy greens and minty blues — reminding me of the Fauves at their best and brightest. She mentioned in our conversation that The Group of Seven had an early influence on her while studying in Canada. I can see that her paintings are making friends with the late landscapes and theoretical sensibilities of Emily Carr. Carr said "Art is art, nature is nature, you cannot improve upon it... Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist; it is the soul of the individual that counts." Rubenstein's paintings seem to be channeled directly from her soul and she takes up every bit of space on her panels to share with us that glowing light she has within.
 Image Courtesy Of White Columns, NY
 Image Courtesy Of White Columns, NY
                                                      Image Courtesy Of White Columns, NY
I had The Beach Boys song "Vega-Tables" in my head for most of the visit. It was a slow, soothing, and quiet time together. She remarked on how nice it was to be back in town and in the studio. I remarked on how nice it was to be drawing her paintings. Please go see her show at White Columns before it comes down on the July 15th. Adrianne is also in a four person show at Harper's Books (East Hampton) with Kathy Bradford, Al Freeman and Sarah Braman, which she organized, opening August 13. She has a small solo show at The Pit II (Los Angeles) opening Sept 18, and has curated a show titled 'Fort Greene' for Venus Los Angeles which opens Sept 17. To see more of her work go here http://www.adriannerubenstein.ca.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Eddie Martinez

Unable to access the studio of every artist I admire I will often go to museums to draw paintings. Following the rich contours of a heavy line with my hand is choice — Miro and Twombly being some of my more enlightening drawing experiences. Now I add to that list (and without a trip to the museum) my recent visit with Eddie Martinez. Paintings of all sizes were lined up, one after another, on his walls. Some were even strewn across the floor, momentarily lying down in mid-application. Admittedly, my allegiance lies with work that is anchored in line. You can only imagine how thrilling it was to have so much of it in front of me.


Dynamic black marks made without pause silhouette collections of chunky and vivid cut up shapes. Browns, blues, and yellows contrast varying degrees of whites and the darkest of blacks. But it is the reds that always lead me back, sitting on top of the canvas commanding my eyes. Sometimes they are still-lifes of unrecognizable objects, sometimes otherworldly rock filled landscapes or jumbled up figures with outstretched legs. I think of the primary colors and vigorous lines of Abstract Expressionist Corinne Michelle West or the direct rawness and figuration of the CoBrA movement's Asger Jorn. Jorn's good friend, Guy Debord, once said "Art need no longer be an account of past sensations. It can become the direct organization of more highly evolved sensations." This quote encapsulates the essence of Martinez's work. His art evokes an immediate sensation, the maker and viewer simultaneously experiencing a moment of creation.




Two round dogs happily trotted around the studio as Eddie, his assistants, and I worked throughout the afternoon. Fran, Martinez's pup, even posed a few times for the camera towards the end of the day. I couldn't resist penciling her in along with his paintings. Above is a view of his recent show "Salmon Eye" at Mitchell-Innes and Nash. To see more of Martinez's fantastic work go here  http://eddiemartinez.net/.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Marc Hundley

When you live in a city with eight and half million people a majority of your experiences (and a lot of your psychic energies) end up contained within the four walls of your apartment, your friends' places, or your favorite out of town hang outs. We take to these spots in the hopes of occupying a less chaotic space. In turn they become an extension of ourselves, sitting still, ready to be portrayed. Marc Hundley's poignant and sublime portraits of experience using time, place, and text are as relatable as they are ambiguous. A few days after the opening of his show "New Music" at Canada, I walked across the hall of my apartment building to draw his studio. Hundley is not only a fantastic artist, but also a fantastic neighbor.


Familiar like a past life, and just as unearthly, Hundley's posters pluck texts from poems, song lyrics and names of places and pairs them with found and original imagery. Using direct mark making, typewriting, and repeated xeroxing as part of his process, the results are meaningfully manipulated advertisements for a more benevolent world. One printed work on paper, up in his current show, uses a photo he took of the west side of our building that he couples with lyrics by Buffy Saint-Marie, a native Canadian singer songwriter and social activist. I find myself replacing my own voice with Marc's in the time it takes to quietly read the small dark type detailing a place, a time and the author of the text at the bottom of many of the posters. For "New Music" Marc has made the space more apt for day dreaming and pondering by building a long bench that takes up the extent of one of the walls — a generous consideration for his weary city viewers. Hundley's ephemeral thoughts or gentle but nudging manifestos, be them imagined or real recollections, whisper out to the audience to pay attention to what is happening around them, often finding that "It's Beautiful."



It was pretty easy to get home from our visit; I never even put on my shoes. Continuing our often lengthy hall conversations in a drawing session seemed so natural, but also unusually special. Art is all around us, sometimes just on the other side of the wall. Please go see his show up now at Canada until June 6 and to see more of his work look him up on the internet. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Carl D'Alvia

With one studio in Brooklyn and one in Cornwall, CT, Carl D'Alvia and his practice live somewhere sublimely between country and city life. We teetered between the two places in conversation while I visited him recently in his Bushwick studio. When not in NY Carl spends his time running lush trails, working on his sculptures, and visiting nearby Great Barrington, ending the day by rolling hand made raviolis with his daughter and his wife, painter Jackie Saccoccio. It takes many steps and a lot of patience for D'Alvia to get to the end of one of his projects, finishing his sculptures in materials such as marble, bronze, or clay. I can only imagine this patience isn't gained on the streets of NYC.


Thoughts on Surrealism, Minimalism and the art of Ancient Greece come to mind when I look at D'Alvia's compelling and colorful sculptures. A decisively rendered ebony piece that sits upright on his studio floor and hits about mid-thigh is as welcoming and goofy as a pet Labrador and as clean as a Tony Smith. If minimalism was a reaction against abstract expressionism, then D'Alvia's work is a clever, well-versed, Pop reaction to both. The fastidious patterns that form around his sculptures, be them tubular strands or stylized feathers, are rich in detail with a multitude of curves that repeat like the locks of Laocoon's hair. It was no surprise to hear that D'Alvia had spent time in Italy at the American Academy in Rome after winning the Rome Prize. There is an obvious appreciation for the formal techniques that are best inspired by looking at the Berninis in the Galleria Borghese or the Veiled Christ hidden in Napoli's Sansevero Chapel. After a day spent analyzing these creatures that are part iconic figuration and part furry wisecrack, I felt like I was leaving with a few new friends. Smart ones.


We got hungry for lunch working on our drawings, his of imagined sculptures and mine of real ones, so Carl ran down the street to pick up a couple of Roberta's pies. This was quite an unexpected and savory part of the visit. A lot of our conversation revolved around his time spent in Rome and my visit there last year. Hence the pizza run. With appearances in recent group shows at places like Regina Rex, Jeff Bailey and The Journal Gallery it seems like a month doesn't go by that I don't run into one of Carl's sculptures. Look out for them yourself and to see more of his work go here http://dalvia.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Kimia Ferdowsi Kline

For centuries traditional storytelling has used animals in place of humans. From Aesop's fables to George Orwell's Animal Farm, our furrier counterparts direct our moral compasses while exhibiting humanistic traits. Kimia Ferdowsi Kline's studio in Fort Greene was stacked with juicy marked up oil paintings of jackals, cats, horses, and fish all inspired by the ancient Persian book “Kalila and Dimna,” a collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose. The jackals, Kalila and Dimna, who narrate the story, sat upright and bright in the foreground of one of Kimia's canvases, illuminating the room as we spent the day working alongside one another in the breeziness of early spring.


I am hooked on the verve a studio has just before a body of work is completed. Kimia's studio was overflowing with it, only a few days away from shipping her new suite of paintings to Detroit, Michigan for a solo show at the Elaine. L. Jacob Gallery, a part of Wayne University. The large stellar painting that she worked on while I was there went from a vibrant red to black to white; the silhouettes of previous coats being saved along the way and seen riffling through her layers. A flock of birds was scattered across her dining room table, as though en route to Detroit. Kimia and I talked over the possible background colors she would use to accentuate their soar when she installed them in the gallery. The playfulness of the neon colors and varied feather patterns gave each of them their own story to tell. On one canvas a woman wearing a startlingly blue jumpsuit stretches a marmalade cat, who takes the focus of the painting, across her arms. The cat's expression fills in for the missing face of the figure and reminded me of the anthropomorphized felines in Persian mythology. I delighted in recapturing these creatures' whimsical and luscious qualities, but even more so in the spontaneity of the painter's imagination.



In the afternoon Kimia whipped us up a blueberry smoothie and we took a break from our work to talk about her other work, curating for the Wythe Hotel. Artists make fantastic curators. With 70 rooms to fill, her project takes her to a lot of studios, and like myself, she gets great joy from it. To see more of her work go here http://www.kimiakline.com/ and if you happen to be in Detroit please see her show "As Above, So Below" at Elaine. L. Jacob Gallery up until June 24th.