Saturday, January 14, 2017

Caroline Wells Chandler

Here we are stuck in the middle of another winter with an incredibly daunting 2017 on our hands and slushy trash-filled snow at our feet. So it couldn't be more timely that I turn my attitude around by reflecting back on a visit I made just before the end of the year. If you don't already know the wondrous world of Caroline Wells Chandler and his celebratory figures, I am thrilled to make the introduction. Caroline and I spent a day together at the end of 2016 sipping on juicy IPA's, eating guac, and engaging in life affirming conversations on the art world and what it needs from us. Most of the work in his Sharpe-Walentas  studio was up on the walls while he got ready for his two person show at Fred Giampietro Gallery opening January 14th. The space couldn't be more prime for drawing.


I first came across Caroline's work at an art fair a few years back. It was a relief to see a wall full of larger than life personalities encouraging me to dance away the stuffiness of the exhibition space. Like drawings, his forms are made up of intertwining marks with contour lines of contrasting values highlighting their free-form shapes. Alternating from neon pink to deep greens to subtle taupes, I find myself taking as much pleasure in their color as I do in their unabashed elation. The wall acts like both a canvas and a stage. But, in suspending ones disbelief, these creatures, or trolls, as Chandler adoringly calls them, begin to float around independently in the space, attached to nothing but a kindred spirit. Some of their titles refer to inspirational contemporary artists by their first name: Kathy, EJ, Tamara, and Jennifer, to name a few  a deserving homage to our community through portraiture. A group of smaller crotchet works synthesize stretched-out legs and vivid sunsets. They hover around the larger figures like musical notes reverberating exaltations and good vibrations. A rounded rainbow on the far wall is joined by two running torsos. The torsos seem to be helping one another along with their burdens by connecting their kaleidoscopic powers. Using the often marginalized medium of crotchet, Chandler is helping us along by expanding our sometimes narrow view of art, its history, how it is made, and who makes it. My favorite work up on the wall was of Caroline, as his younger self, being held in the arms of his partner, Angela. As artists, we can all relate to the capacity of love as encouragement.



I hope the next time you are at an art fair you come across the friends I made sitting in Caroline's studio that afternoon. They have a lot to teach us. Chandler's show is up at Fred Giampietro Gallery until February 14th and to see more of his work go here http://carolinewellschandler.com/home.html



Friday, January 6, 2017

Paul DeMuro

I met Paul DeMuro just outside the N train at the 59th St station last fall. His studio is located deep within the historical Brooklyn Army Terminal. We stopped in to see the desolate, but grandiose railroad tracks on our way. The heavy cement balconies that diagonally line its walls and the massive atrium towering above it astonished me as much as the fact that I had no idea this place existed. Block-long superstructures with slits for windows were connected by a footbridge similar to an ancient aqueduct. The whole compound seemed like a set for a sci-fi movie. But it was no surprise that the real marvel came when we finally got up to Paul's studio. The space positively glowed from the new suite of paintings he was working on. The love was instant.



I remember growing crystals when I was young. I think the recipe went like this: fill a jar with very salty water, attach a string across the top of it, and put it in the sunlight. They took time, but in the early 80's I had a lot of that. Using patience, sensitivity to light and a powerful center of intuition, DeMuro has been growing something even more astonishing in his studio. Three massive paintings were slowly being consumed by clusters of pattern and color, and I was there to watch it. Chaotic phenomena came sailing out of DeMuro's hand hour after hour. His palettes refract light like air on water. It was easy to relate his wildy trippy networks of mark-making to those found in crystalline structures. DeMuro explained that he works on his paintings instinctively, that each section informs the next. He also collages images like his sister playing football or the outline of a bouquet of flowers onto the paintings in order to get the ball rolling. Gradients and rainbows radiate from the collages' centers illuminating them like the sound of a gospel choir during the chorus of a pop song. I have yet to see these paintings in their completed form, but I can only imagine they have the same healing power that crystals and choirs do.

Behind the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Pier 4 juts out into the East River and is lined with fishermen and kids speeding by on their bikes. In the distance you can see a tiny green Statue of Liberty and the tip of Manhattan. Paul and I walked out on it at the end of our session. Our conversations didn't stop that day until we finished our lap and parted ways. It isn't only Paul's paintings that relate to the mysteries and beauties of nature, he does too. Paul has a show opening on January 8th at Essex Flowers and it is up until February 5th. To see more of his work go here http://pauldemuro.com/


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fabienne Lasserre

Just before the cold swept across NY (in more ways than one), I visited sculptor Fabienne Lasserre's studio in Crown Heights. The air was still gentle for fall. The sun was shining sharply behind me, illuminating the white outline of a partially transparent orb that vibrated in the light. I sat snugly with the blanket Fabienne stretched across my lap and the freshly frothed coffee she had put by my side. Her two year old daughter, Lou, darted around the yard picking the last remnants of summer's tomato plants. Before starting we rearranged some of the sculptures to set the stage for the drawing. The garage door acted like a proscenium while Fabienne's animated, kaleidoscopic, and oversized ensemble came to life in front of me.




Fabienne takes abstraction to new levels by towering it magnificently over her viewers. As I walked through the sculptures that overflowed Fabienne's studio I could feel them gently guiding me through the space like the exaggerated hallways of a Fun House. I lavished in experiencing their expressive surfaces and wide cut out forms. They are wondrously animated in the spirit of Alexander Calder mobiles or Matisse's gouaches découpés. And then she takes her collages one step further by intuitively painting on either side of them. From neon oranges to glossy blacks to mute pinks, her palettes can go from monochromatic to vibrantly polychromatic. While I was there she was in the final stages of getting ready for her two person show with Annette Wehrhahn at Safe Gallery, which is up now until December 18th. Seeing the work in the context of the gallery a few weeks later only accentuated how much the sculptures play off of one another — cropping and framing each other to make entirely new compositions and conversations. They are truly all encompassing of both body and mind.
Image courtesy of Safe Gallery


We spoke about how much her work grew in size once Lou was born. My thought was maybe when your heart grows your art grows. Fabienne also just started working in Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program. The space she was given at Sharpe has a view of the bridge. A wonderful way to make sculptures, I can imagine, looking at the Manhattan Bridge while you do it. I urge you to go and see her show at Safe Gallery, and to see more of her work go here: http://fabiennelasserre.com/.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Liz Markus

My visits are mostly one on one, but spending the day in Liz Markus' studio was more like attending a soiree. Long legged retro models strutted, colorful hallucinogenic aliens snarled, a hippy was playing Jesus (or vice versa) and ceramic cats bounced their moon shaped paws up and down. A real life feline even crashed the party at the end of our session, prancing through the studio from down the hall. She tagged her favorite paintings with her tail before rubbing up against the leopard cub sitting in the center of the space. And all the while, Liz kept a constant beat going over the stereo as we managed to get some work done.



With a lot on her plate, Markus was gearing up for the group show "Domestic Seen" at the Nerman Museum in Kansas City when I visited her. A great energy ignites her space and you can experience it secondhand through her vivacious brush stokes and phosphorescent palettes. The pop culture references that raise the frequency of her high octane paintings are taken from collections of images and collages that fill up her studio walls and the cardboard boxes laying around the floor. Certain themes have come up in Liz's work and fearlessness has come out on her canvases. Recently, Markus successfully recovered from a rare form of ovarian cancer. Liz explained that she wanted to be able to speak about her experience of having cancer without overtly referencing it. She was drawn to images that represented good fortune, like the lucky cats you see hanging out in Chinatown's storefronts. So she painted them to connect the idea of luck and survival to how she felt fortunate to have had her cancer caught early. Sex cord stromal cell tumor is the medical terminology to describe her cancer. Abbreviated to sex cord it sounded to her more like the name of a band so she wrote it out across her painting in ownership of its power. Expressing positivity, frustration and strength as artists we are able to deal with some of life's greatest and least expected struggles. Abundance of creativity and spirit not only emanates from Markus' artwork, but also from Liz herself.



  After things winded down we talked about books and the importance of taking care of yourself. We talked about the big skies of a desert and living in the moment. I left full of life. Markus is in the group show "Domestic Seen," curated by Bruce Hartman at the Nerman Museum in Kansas City, which runs from October 20 – March 26. And "A New Subjectivity", curated by Jason Stopa and featuring artists Katherine Berhardt, Kathy Bradford, Rose Wiley, and Jackie Gendel at the Pratt Gallery Manhattan from February 23 – April 12, 2017. She also has a show at the University of Arkansas in August of 2017. To see more of her work go here: http://www.lizmarkus.com/.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ginny Casey

Sometimes the best paintings only reveal half their narrative, leaving it up to a pair of eyes and a reckless imagination to fill in the rest. After seeing Ginny Casey's work in her show at 106 Green last Winter, I waited with bated breath, like you do with any good suspense, for more chapters of the story. Skipping ahead by asking for a drawing visit, I was excited to discover she was having a show at Half Gallery opening in the Fall. Her overflowing studio was prime for a drawing session, and, to my great pleasure, her beautiful new baby Lumin Ramona was there at the beginning of the visit. Throughout the day Casey walked the couple blocks home to nurse. Yet another reminder that being a fantastic painter and mother can and do go hand and hand.



The two unfinished paintings that remained in Ginny's studio were left up to a matter of color. Her delicately bold palette is one of the strongest parts of her work, and it's no wonder her finalizing moments come down to fine tuning it. Casey models her soft forms, often large enough to take over the entire canvas, by teetering between colors so close in value they are as precarious as the knife painted into the corner of her composition. The curved edges of her shapes keep up their mysterious flatness while alluding to spacial perspective with barely visible shadows and dark colors that anchor her backgrounds. Casey's perspectives flirt with abstraction like the vague floating forms in Milton Avery's painting or the dense vessels highlighted in a Morandi. Girth, hollowness, humor, contradiction; these are words that come to mind when I leave my preconceived ideas of still-life behind and get caught up in her world. And then a narrative begins to unfold. It is anywhere between a tumbling toy that sits on the shelf of a dusty thrift store to a deserted scene left with surreal truncations and pointing fingers.

With our cold jumbo seltzers in hand we had a lot of really intense belly laughs in between talks of her coming show and her new life in motherhood. I learn something new every time I visit a studio. This time I learned, so intimately, what it is like to work on a show with a newborn baby. Ginny Casey rocks. Don't miss "Play Things" which opens September 7th and is up until October 7th at Half Gallery. To see more of her work go to http://www.ginnycasey.com/paintings


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rachel E. Williams

A giant rhizome connects the artists of New York City, and it helps keep my project alive and growing. I have been following the various offshoots, as I pass from one studio to the next, since the beginning. A mutual friend introduced me to Rachel Williams awhile back, knowing that I wouldn't be able to resist drawing her paintings and color activated wall formations. Over the course of Rachel and my visit recently we discovered a shared obsession with Joan Miró, both having made the pilgrimage to Barcelona to visit his museum and hometown. We even met up again a week later to gush over his paintings at The Met, and then MoMA. The connections that root artists together have not only lead me to exciting new subjects to draw, but also a chance to see old favorites through the eyes of a new friend.


You can virtually feel the curve of line that Williams articulates with her paint-saturated ropes as they wind dynamically around her cut up shapes of canvas. She is actualizing form and color by bringing abstraction to alternate dimensions. Working from drawings, her wall formations become a real life representation of her linear fantasies. Quickly drawn marks are exaggerated as they are reproduced and lay across large shapes which change color, like translucent paint layered on a piece of paper. Her canvasses, on the other hand, depict jumbled up lines that twist in and out of fields of blues and purples, sometimes contrasted with a burnt orange. The landscape that is alluded to allows her roller coaster structures to become even more three-dimensional. Her passion for Miró is visible in her work, as are echoes of more recent artists like Elizabeth Murray, but Williams is fully engaging with a new visual language that is very much her own.


We ended up continuing our studio day into the night by going to a performance at Magenta Plains and then out for papusas on Essex Street. I hope for more summer hangs and I look forward to everything that is coming out of Williams' studio. Keep a look out for her. 

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.