Sunday, March 30, 2014

Trudy Benson

As I was heading out the door for a visit recently, I realized I didn't have a buzzer or contact number for the artist — this wasn't the first time. I made my way to Greenpoint anyway to serendipitously find Trudy Benson standing out in front of her studio waving a massive truck into a parking spot. Benson escorted the two men, there to pick up a painting, upstairs as I ran out to grab us a couple of coffees. It was a real Rosencrantz and Guildenstern team doing the dirty work, lubberly escorting the painting down the outdoor staircase in a battle with the early spring wind while absurd questions bounced back and forth between them. Benson appeared calm, like a true painter pro, softly handing out comments while her work nearly but safely made it onto the truck. The painting was getting ready to cross the Atlantic for London where it will join the Saatchi collection and be shown in the exhibit Abstract America, which opens May 20th and runs until September 28th. Our visit was off to a pretty exciting start.

At the beginning of our visit, Benson and I stood closely to her paintings, talking them over, before we each got to work. I was immediately taken by her smart and obsessive explanations of various color and material choices: why some paint brands won over others, what blue had recently made it to the top of her list, and how she arrives at the different kinds of "tube to canvas" mark making that gives her paintings such subtle line variation. Benson's canvases seem to be bravely showing their whole selves to the viewer at once in order to fully bare their perfectly teetering compositional qualities and brilliant color unions. I  began to realize while I was drawing what great satisfaction I get from seeing large things made small and small things made large. Like Oldenburg's floor-burger; it makes art of parody and humor. Benson's overgrown brush strokes and chroma turned 3D create a canvas that acts like a hyper real version of itself. For me, it personifies paint, like Claes did the burger; and satiates my hunger for art. 

There was a lot of catching up to do as though we had been meeting like this for years. We shared favorite comics, color combos, and cat positions. And of course talked extensively of her super silky graphite grey cat Lucy. Important to many of my visits with women, we also discussed our feelings on the position we have in the art world; the struggles, awkward situations, and need for getting one another's back. It was so nice to occasionally take a break to talk to her husband, Russell Tyler, who is also a painter and shares a space next to hers. They make a great team and recently put a show together titled SHORTHAND that is currently up at DCKT until April 19th. And if you are in LA this Summer, Benson is in a group show at ACME titled OK GREAT THANKS THIS IS SO RIDICULOUS, open from June 7 until July 12. To see more of Benson's awesome work go to Lisa Cooley.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Franklin Evans

Nearly 50 visits in and I finally made it across the river to draw, spending the day with Franklin Evans in his studio in the Lower East Side a couple of Saturdays ago. After making my way down Bowery, I looked up to see short neon strips of tape and painted pieces of paper that were missing their center squares, dangling from the inside of windows of a second floor apartment building. I knew I was in the right place. I had the overwhelming feeling of having been in this studio before when I walked in to his space. I soon realized I was thinking back to the strong impression his elaborate mixed-media exhibition at Sue Scott Gallery had on me in the spring of 2012. It was a memorable glimpse into the artist's mind, studio, and process. Evans was breaking the fourth wall with that exhibition and remembering it made me even more eager to begin my drawing.

  The scatter of exuberant colors and layers of rumination in Evans' work, both on his canvases and in his installations, smartly challenge the viewers' understanding of how things are made. I liked being given the chance to look at the paintings so completely while drawing them. I was able to finally break down their building blocks while attempting to recreate them in pencil. Some of the painted imagery, which is often repeated and presented in a square snap-shot format, reads like transient thoughts or obsessions, a snippet of the synapse between art and life. He explained that these images range from new favorite artworks, to childhood photographs, to his own previously made paintings. And then there are these phantom likenesses to artist tape — used to break up space, accent pictorial images, or vibrate colors — that are hard to make out as having been removed or never attached at all. Their actual use in many of Evans' installations acts as a mirror and another iteration of his process. Underneath it all, with a squinted eyes stare, I made out completed paintings, reminding me of color field artists, gluing together the chaos of the canvas. Sporadically looking up from my drawing and seeing Evans working, made me think of a television show detective who pieces together clues while pinning them up on a cork board. More like a howdunnit than a whodunnit.

I got  more and more lost in Evans' work throughout the day, my obvious obsession with artist studios being manifested in his paintings and then again on my paper. Moments of chatter led to moments of silence as our concentration waved in an out of intensity. I was lucky to see this work in progress and to have Evans share with me the plans for his upcoming solo show opening this June at Ameringer McEnery Yohe. If you need to see something even sooner, he is also in great looking group show, titled Material Images, at Johannes Vogt Gallery up until April 5th. And, if you happen to be in Reno, Nevada, he has an installation at the Nevada Museum of Art up until April 20th. To see more of Evans' work go here
Installation view at Johannes Vogt Gallery, Material Images, 2014