Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring is here!

iPhone photo by Karineh Gurjian-Angelo

Due to installing and opening Climb the Black Mountain at Lesley Heller Workspace this week (linked above), time has assumed a hallucinogenic tenor. No longer dedicated solely to the studio, the days brim with projects long put on hold, shows to catch up on seeing and books to read. The alarming disappearance of Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei into custody and the deaths of legendary artists John McCracken and Sylvia Sleigh intensify the slippery sense of time.

To ground myself, I visited Chelsea for a quick quartet of exhibitions:

Elizabeth Murray, paintings from the 1970s at Pace; James Siena, paintings at Pace

Jennifer Reeves at Ramis Barquet

Joan Mitchell, paintings at Lennon, Weinberg

The lavish surfaces and rich palettes in Murray and Mitchell mesh delightfully in imaginary combination. Murray's palettes toy with color opposites, while Joan Mitchell's travel from the periphery to the center of the spectrum: full throttle colors muted with earth tones. Murray's compositions skitter and zig-zag over shaped surfaces; Mitchell's maelstroms of marks stretch taut over four sided formats. Mitchell's palette knife scrapings, opaque slashes and fleeting glazes complement Murray's flicks of the brush and obsessive edges in which the paint ridges up, embracing forms.

Jennifer Reeves' paintings echo and deviate the worked surfaces of Murray and Mitchell. The artist functions as a bricoleur, using paint, buttons and sticks to embody written confessionals that move the heart as well as eye. These strange combinations of elements bring new life to eyes scanning text, imbuing reading with texture. Reeves' primarily white paintings straddle winter and spring; their paint-slicked grounds are punctuated with islands of color and toenails of paint that act as object and subtance simultaneously. A stick structure hangs on the edge of a canvas like a hut on a landslide, proposing ephemeral scenarios within landscapes constructed with paint's visual matter.

Returning to Climb the Black Mountain, a context for the paintings is found in related shows: Mernet Larsen and Jonathan Butt at Regina Rex in Bushwick and David B. Brody at Sometimes, 83 Canal St. The improvisational exhibition space Sometimes is open Wednesdays from 10.30 to 6 through April 27th; just go to the address and there is a sign on the door. Regina Rex is open on weekends. Larsen, Brody and I study Asian culture intensively, so it is thrilling to see the visual discoveries of each artist's investigations.

Since Larsen's paintings are discussed in the previous post The Two L's, I'll focus on Brody's paintings here. They are strange paintings, beautifully scaled; easel-sized, the space within them is capacious. They absorb Chinese scrolls and Venetian painting in equal amounts, melding western and eastern perspectives seamlessly. Our eye roams through cutaway views of complex, labrynthian structures that suggest Hilary Harkness as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. These abruptly shift into vaporous clouds of color or smudge. Our sense of space suspends in time that feels cultural, reverberating between ancient and future civilizations. Check Brody's site for a preview:

I'm excited by the number of painting exhibitions now on, and so glad to be participating in the rich conversation they propose.

Happy spring!

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