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 .

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: