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.


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.