Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Nothing That Is Not Here

["Far Away From Forest Sounds" (2009), fluid acrylic on panel. "Daphne Would Recite for Our Pleasure" (2009), fluid acrylic on wood panel. "Moments of Awakening" (2009), diptych, fluid acrylic on canvas.]

Myriad dialogues—with their inherent networks of influence and intention—come together as an ensemble in the colorful, abstract canvases of Ed Cohen. While Cohen’s works reflect his intellectual and emotional life, they are a spiritual exploration. At "The Nothing That Is Not Here," the first solo show by Ed Cohen at Winston Wächter Fine Art, the artist veers between tension and joyful randomness imparted by his drip technique. While one finds evident order and control in these paintings, one—more importantly—steps into a spiritual dimension.

Yes, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is an obvious reference point, for Cohen: The latter works on the floor and drips paint from above. Yet Cohen’s spiritual sources are as—if not more —important than his technical ones. Indeed, one can start with the importance of Buddhist philosophy (in general) and 17th century Enso paintings (in particular) upon Cohen’s work. Cohen sees painting as an act of meditation in which the artist, his materials, and vision synthesize. Whether employing circles (the form used by Buddhist monks) or lines extending across canvases, Cohen’s images approach the infinite and exude a mystery. The latter can be explored by viewers beyond the artist’s fluency in extending the reach of basic colors and adept handling of paint.

As the artist paints what is beyond words, it rests upon the viewer to transcend the music and spirit of an Ed Cohen painting. Within the Zen Buddhist frame of reference, the Enso is the circle of infinity, completion, and oneness. To those with that weltanschauung, the circle—in all its humbleness—conveys truth and even enlightenment itself. To look at Ed Cohen’s paintings is a contemplative experience. Making the heart childlike is vital in Zen practice, and to look at the artist’s images—particularly the circular ones—is to look into the potential heart in which various layers fall away to allow a "purer" view. The artist’s works seduce with their simplicity, challenging efforts to deconstruct their deliberation. They welcome viewers into the process of absorbing these images in their authenticity. Each of his works is truly unique—organisms defying perfection while embracing actualization.

Cohen paints states of mind and emotion delving periodically into passion—allowing his viewers to capture moments apart from everyday life. His works invite one to ask existential questions about the world and struggle with unanswerable questions. Beyond this, their simple elements trigger internal, emotional, and visceral conversations with the viewer. However, these works are far from simple. Cohen’s paintings—in their motifs and flatness—betray various complexities, organisms, and human imperatives with functions inspired by Abstract Expressionism’s most luminous possibilities.

The Nothing That Is Not Here
By Ed Cohen
Through October 17, 2009
@ Winston Wächter Fine Art
530 West 25th Street, NYC 10001

Needing Some Color-Time-Space

[“Flowering Tree,” Kevin Wixted (2009), oil on linen. “Trema Disc,” Julie Gross (2005), oil on linen. “Blue Sky With Lattice,” Thornton Willis (2008), oil on canvas. “Bent,” Joanne Freeman (2009), oil & wax on canvas. “Wish You Well,” Gary Petersen, acrylic & oil on panel. “Flowering Tree” …]

“Music is an art of sound interval, time interval, and painting – my painting – is an art of space intervals,” declared Gene Davis (1920-1985) in a 1981 interview. “One is time, one is space.” A member of the Washington Color School, Davis was known for his paintings of vertical color stripes. While he worked in a variety of media such as ink, oil, acrylic, video, and collage, Davis predominantly used acrylic paint on canvas from 1958. Repeating particular colors in a “composition” of rhythm, breaks, contrast, and repetition with variations in his work, Davis’ well known “Black Gray Beat” (1964) reinforced his weltanschauung of comparison of music with the visual arts. In that painting, pairs of alternating black and gray stripes repeat across the canvas and break forth in repetition of dark and light pairs and colors of sharp contrast.

When interpreted in music and visual art, sound and sight share experiential qualities. Indeed, music’s rhythm and tones compare to intervals of sight and space in painting. Underlying systems in musical scores and painting grids are comparable structures in the art of composition. Curated by Joanne Freeman and Kim Uchiyama, artists participating in the group show “Color-Time-Space” at Lohin Geduld Gallery selectively use color selectively to build intuitive rhythm—calling forth distinct color relationships in painting space creation. Those created spaces are defined by grid (both actual and implied) and repetition of specific color elements. Running through October 10, paradoxical relationships—intuitive and measured—give the work of these 13 painters a variety of contradictory attributes.

Painting allows James Biederman to see what is invisible. Wet paint falls in relationship to the gravity and surface of the canvas. Once “barren,” in Biederman’s view, the canvas becomes “inhabited” by expressive colors and interacting forms. Structure—in many cases geometric—maintains stability in his painting (as it would in music). Paintings have became a way for him to reveal his subliminal memory: In his current works you find fluid structures within pictorial space. As befits the supposition of “Color-Time-Space” in the connective music-painting paradigm, Biederman brings to his painting the timbres picked up years at music study and playing tenor saxophone. He also brings to the canvas his experience learning dance and movement at the Martha Graham School. Points of reference for Biederman have also included the Renaissance artists Giotto (1267-1337) and Masaccio (1401-1428), the writings of Marcel Proust (1871-1922), and the highly lyrical verse of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The viewer finds in his work a tugging between the non-narrative and narrative. Despite interaction between abstraction and a suggestive place or state of being, the painting becomes an entity only when details of emotion and place are revealed.

One finds dynamic and indefatigable deliberations between abstract language of form and color in Joanne Freeman’s work. By using oil paint and beeswax paste on panel, she builds hard-edged patterns of dynamic geometry in adaptation to her medium. Freeman’s paintings—in texture and movement of beeswax-laden paint upon the canvas—engage both intellect and senses. Movement inherent of her painted world suggests the freneticism of modern choreography. Pop culture, spiritual pursuit, and organic forces interplay wildly in the work of Gary Petersen—bound by the mortar of humor and his cosmic interests. Petersen’s abstract works host veils, portals, or openings into other words—“flirting” with representation and serving as a bridge between what is real and imagined.

Drawing precedes painting in the work of Julie Gross who has—in her recent works—used compasses to choreograph structures of circular forms. In her exciting works, these forms morph into more considerable forms—playing upon her interest in the interaction tension and flow in centrifugal and centripetal forces. In Gross’ work, the painted surface is precise and uninflected—allowing spatial interaction to reveal itself distinctly in an equation of surface and tension. In “Trema Disc” (2005), her entry in “Color-Time-Space,” circles cascade into a web of bubbles upon the linen, those circles serving as vessels of color. Gross seeks to create breathing, tense, and emergent images that—while suspended on one level—connect slices of light. Furthermore, she is compelled by discrete relationships emerging from color and form in this strained field where subject and ground revel in movement.

In Thornton Willis’ words, “To describe 21st Century spatial concepts in painting is to try and depict the basic interconnectedness of matter in which form only appears separate.” On his canvasses, form struggles to maintain itself in dynamic flows of space and time within existential dynamics within nature. This resultant flux suggests volume in the form as Willis works toward a kind of biomorphic Cubism. While drawing from myriad references, modernist writings of Nobel Prize contender Italo Calvino (1923-1985), the frescos of early Renaissance artist and mathematician Piero Della Francesca (1415-1492), and the Gothic and polychrome Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral (Duomo) of Florence are among Kevin Wixted’s inspirations. Recent and dynamic (if not radical) changes to the topography of the New York City are also finding their place in Wixsted’s intuitive paintings. “Flowering Tree” (2009), Wixted’s offering in this show, exudes the confluence of space, color, and geometric patterning he so absorbingly accomplishes.

Contributing writer and managing arts editor at the indispensible Brooklyn Rail, Ben La Rocco gives us “Mississippi” in this show. A lecturer and visiting critic at Rutgers, Montclair, Hunter, and PS1, La Rocco is a recipient of the S.J. Wallace Truman Fund Award for Painting. The internal geometrics of Jennifer Riley’s highly lyrical paintings explore the material and immaterial through flat and illusionist space. Modernist and Minimalist strategies coalesce in the structures of her work. Laurie Fendrich sees two-dimensional, handmade art as a bulwark against encroachment by mass consumer culture. Balking at the idea of art as simply “self-expression,” Fendrich sees its role in larger cultural impact. Furthermore, Fendrich poses the necessity of embracing art’s traditions, canons, and evolutions while—at the same time—modifying them or even rebelling against them. Kim Uchiyama’s paintings, in their stacked horizontal bands of color, reference landscapes and civilization with metaphorical compression, interruption, and segmentation. Stephen Westfall is best known for his energetic and colorful abstract works, such as “My Beautiful Laundrette” (2008), his offering for this show. Adding a new twist to the classic grid format, Westfall allows asymmetry into these oil paintings that jerk and dance upon the canvas.

Wide brush strokes capture color’s potential in Yvonne Thomas’ captivating and poetic works. Thomas was one of five fortunate artists able to study with Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Barnett Newman (1905-1970), William Baziotes (1912-1963) and David Hare (1917-1992) at the Subject of the Artists School on West Eighth Street in the Village (1948) in a spectacular convergence of Surrealism and nascent Abstract Expressionism. Working with exalted Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell afterwards, Thomas absorbed such Surrealist improvisational principles as psychic automatism—feeding her paintings a seamless and Jazz-like perspective.

Gene Davis told Barbara Rose in a 1971 interview for Art Forum: “One must enter the painting through the door of a single color... If the viewer selects individual colors and looks at them across the surface of the work, he’s almost reliving the painting process... The spectator is in a sense, entering into kind of a time experience in the same way that I did when I painted it.” The “time experience” described by Davis, links the viewer’s experience of contemplation with the artist’s creative process. The community of artists participating in “Color-Time-Space” address this link and demonstrate the emotive and visceral space created in painting when color is used with psychology and intention.

Color-Time-Space: A Group Show

Through October 10, 2009

@ Lohin Geduld Gallery

531 West 25th Street, New York City 10001



Through October 11, 2009
@ Janet Kurnatowski Gallery
205 Norman Avenue, Brooklyn 11222

Monday, September 21, 2009

Issues & Objects: Found and Assembled

[“Stax” (2009), Mark Bradford, mixed media, paper mache, & collage. “Red Painting” (2009), Mark Bradford, mixed media collage on canvas. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #1” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #2” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #3” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel.]

Divergent areas of abstraction come to the fore in a two-person exhibition of new work by Mark Bradford and Kara Walker showing through October 17th at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Yet both artists share a number of coinciding practices. Employing paper, both Bradford and Walker use collage and assemblage to produce much of their explosive art. In Bradford’s case, this comes from billboards, posters, and magazines combed from the physical milieu of his Los Angeles studio—layered and manipulated to create his “compositions.” Seamlessly, Bradford melds high art and mass culture with those materials into highly referenced, pixelated, unusual, and sometimes map-like works. Walker—who also uses found materials—cuts paper silhouettes to create sculptures, videos, works on paper, and wall installations depicting misogyny, racism, and violence.

Both Bradford and Walker explore social and cultural issues in their ambitious works. While Bradford mines those artifacts of contemporary culture in his neighborhood, he structures them to evoke struggles—past and present—across political, social, and economic lines. Walker, meanwhile, references experiences of slavery and race in America. Of special import in this exhibition is the use of text by both Bradford and Walker. The former appropriates low economy advertising in his merchant posters while the latter—in her own writing—reflects most explicitly upon America’s nightmarish themes, particularly as affecting African-American women.

A large sculpture of collaged soccer balls, looming works on canvas, and small paintings and works on paper are among the offerings of Mark Bradford in this exhibition. Walker presents paper sculptures, assorted works on paper and panel, and two new videos featuring her silhouette puppets. In a confrontational gouache-on-paper set of 20 works, the influence of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is evident: Walker was fond of his work as a child.

While Bradford’s work has been shown in such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art and Prospect 1 (New Orleans), Walker’s has been presented at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), MoMA, and Museum of Modern Art (Fort Worth).

Mark Bradford & Kara Walker

Through October 17, 2009

@ Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

530 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011


Widening Rift...

[“Raceway” (2008), acrylic on wood panel. “Lucky Stripes” (2008), triptych, acrylic on canvas. “Moor” (2009), diptych, acrylic on canvas.]

In her own words, Kylie Heidenheimer uses abstraction to interweave spaces and territories that are separate—in a literal or figurative sense. The result is an intertwining imagery that may or may not simultaneously suggest molecular, primordial, cosmological and urban aspects. With this in mind, Heidenheimer works to deepen and expand space and surface in her looming acrylics. In her oeuvre, emphasis leaps forth via paint’s materiality into realms both transitory and ephemeral.

In “Rift,” a solo show of her recent abstract paintings at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel running through October 17th, Heidenheimer confronts the viewer with the structural underpinnings of her work. In each and every space twist, viewers are allowed to see figure and ground conflate and separate. Figuratively, we can traverse every point without crossing an edge in this work—melding like the non-orientable Möbius strip. Alluded to are myriad subject matter: Americana, natural phenomena, cosmology, weather maps, calligraphy, and—yes—the primordial. These seem to blend at junctures: becoming traces of their former selves. Known for his mesh paintings, artist and critic Stephen Maine points out in this regard that “Pictorial fact is implied rather than stated, tapping into the part of the viewer’s brain engaged with becoming rather than being.” In boiling down this existential quality, Maine poses that Heidenheimer's work is a pursuit of the phantom image as opposed to illustration.

Pieces shown in “Rift” abound in fluidity. In “Lucky Stripes,” for example, one painting leads to another—ending up in a triptych. On these canvases, she skillfully exposes her media with evanescent spaces and gutsy, tactile passages that celebrate the paint’s materiality per se. Washes of acrylic paint puddle and pool in Heidenheimer's visceral pieces. Thick splashes and blobs either impose themselves or break apart and scatter in ethereal wafts.

In this show at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, the viewer is treated to Heidenheimer's investigation of, and fascination with, the dual nature of the painted surface—that functions both as a repository of matter and metaphor for space. The artist has previously shown in such venues as Ohio Northern University, Columbia University, Pierogi, Condeso Lawler Gallery, PS 122, and Sideshow Gallery.

Rift: Recent Paintings by Kylie Heidenheimer

Through October 17, 2009

@ 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel

532 West 25th Street, NYC 10001

Friday, September 18, 2009

Basement States

[“Stair Guitar” (2009), oil on canvas. “Mi Amigo Sound Machine” (2009), oil on canvas. “Harry Dean Stand-In” (2008), oil on canvas. “Gay Pride Moustache” (2008), oil on canvas.]

“Basement States” marks New York solo debut of Michael Berryhill. At Horton & Liu Gallery until October 10, 2009, this recent series invites viewers to engage in an open-ended dialogue of inventiveness and misinterpretation. Often deriving inspiration from a misapprehended concept or confusing phrase, Berryhill’s paintings capture self-deprecating moments occurring before meaning is realized. Like hearing song lyrics incorrectly (and assigning new meaning and verbiage to them), Berryhill employs historic symbols and imagery from modern painting styles like Cubism and Surrealism in setting forth a personalized matrix. Indeed, one finds Berryhill breaking up, analyzing, and reassembling his subjects as he allows us a greater context—and giving us a greater number of vantage points from which to see them. One finds in these paintings an intense study of his subjects, which Berryhill showers with dogged complexity.

Berryhill alternates between fast and slow, abstraction and representation, unreadable and readable, insecurity and confidence, color and monochrome, and painting and drawing. Surfaces—to the artist—function as a map of how works develop and ultimately bear results of looking, planning, and changing. In this way, the artist attempts to sync his experience of creation with viewers implicated as active participants in discovery.

In “Basement States, the viewer encounters a Cezanne-like still life (“Two For Table”), a contorted table set by a shrouded, suspect mealtime companion (“Gay Pride Mustache”), an entangled painterly mass resembling a cartoon brain (“Little Big Form”), and a musical instrument of perplexing function set against a brilliantly colored background, leaving the viewer only to speculate what unknown sounds it might produce (“Stair Guitar”). In distinct canvas corners, the viewer can discern the odd juxtaposition or non sequitur. What remains static is Berryhill’s culmination of various textures, surfaces, collage elements, and merged subject matter.

Michael Berryhill lives and works in New York City and Austin. His work has been exhibited in such venues as Angstrom Gallery (Los Angeles), Blütenweiss Gallery (Berlin), and Okay Mountain and Arthouse (Austin).

Basement States

By Michael Berryhill

Through October 10, 2009

@ Horton & Liu

504 West 22nd Street, Parlor Level, NYC 10011