Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rackstraw Downes' Urban Rooms and Desert Landscapes

Rackstraw Downes at Betty Cunningham. Link here: Gallery Link

As always the case in Downes, drawings ground the painting. In the Conceptualization of Realism (Edgewise Press)  Downes writes, "I draw, not to establish anything, but to gain an acquaintance with a place." The top / ground floor at Cunningham features New York landscapes while downstairs desert landscapes. Making the loop, the two intersperse and one becomes immersed in the experience of two places, one tamed, but where wildness originates, and the other, so-called wildness that shows every sign of settlement. 

Sketchbook excerpts: time of day. The chosen time is below.

When I moved from LA to Chicago to attend SAIC for my MFA, I studied with Susanna Coffey, whose portraits share with Downes a nimble brush and close observation. How I yearned to paint this way! If only I looked at the Art Institute's Manets long enough, would it be possible?! But in the way Downes loves American primitive paintings but does not make them, so too do I love Coffey's and his works--and cannot make them! How can this surface be absolutely covered, yet remain so interesting? How can oil still breathe with life? 
Downes writes, "One painting may involve as many as 100 visits...I am interested in the whole place and everything that pertains to it: the long canvases I use result from wanting to get all that in."

In his 1996 book The Abstract Wild, Jack Turner observes only 2% of the US might be wild. These paintings confirm it. 

Downes writes, "Through the metaphor of travel everything comes alive. Except that the traveler's picture is half a picture: he is euphoric on exotica and the novelty of it all." ...To be continued below.
Seen for real, the intense blue shadows shock the eye from the expected neutral tones of this juniper field.

In passages such as these, Downes must experience a melding with landscape. 
He continues, "This may be OK for a romantic; but the realist needs to know his subject like a resident too. The traveler sees that farmland is pretty; this doesn't concern the farmer at all, even if he had time to notice it. He's preoccupied with the fact that his topsoil is poor or his heifers got out. It's a common rift in experience; what we're outside of we don't really understand, what we're inside of we can't really see."
He goes on to quote Su Shih (1084):
"From the side, a whole range;
from the end, a single peak:
Far, near, high, low, no two parts alike.
Why can't I tell the true shape of Lu-Shan?
Because I myself am in the mountain." (p. 123)

In the office.

Also in the office: ochre 'clouds' disclose an underlying grid Downes uses to establish proportion.

Sky moves around branch as branch shapes sky.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Musings on Landscape: Paul Bloodgood at White Columns and Susan Hartnett

Three Dividing, Two Uniting, 2007. 92.5 x 76.5 inches. Oil on canvas.
I'm deep in a project, so it's hard to do much else but tromp to the studio and home again. However Paul Bloodgood's White Columns exhibition was a must--I've been wanting to see these paintings since reading his incredible artist statement in 2010--and is just four blocks away from home. The show does not disappoint in its love for and translation of Chinese landscape through western abstraction. See gallery link for the install. Gallery Link
Slight Wind, 2009, oil on board, 19 x 23 inches.
On his 2010 Guggenheim Foundation page, Bloodgood wrote one of the best artist statements I've ever read: "My paintings take landscape as their subject and as a conceptual point of departure. I begin with preparatory collages made out of parts and details taken from other landscape painters as well as from photographs and drawings I’ve made around the Mt. Khatadin region of Maine. Pollock’s Black Enamel paintings, Cezanne’s late works, and the landscapes of the late-Ming Dynasty painter Tung Ch’i-Ch’ang are a few of the sources I draw from. The collage process allows me to reorient the foreground, midground, mountain, and sky organization characteristic of landscape painting and reconceive it as a dynamic that changes at every scale of time and place. Illogical spatial relations, inconsistencies of scale, imbalanced masses, and ambiguous transitions become the organizing principles of the paintings, and they create a structural dissonance that is incompatible with representational depictions of landscape. But as these elements of space change position, a very different perceptual field of vision opens, and human activity takes shape with the wind, trees, and rivers." Guggenheim Foundation link
Study 5, Collage on paper, 2009-11, 10 x 12.5 inches
Shade, 2009, 19 x 23, oil on canvas.
I concur with Bloodgood on the fusion of western abstraction and Chinese landscape, though personally approached it through a liquid-on-paper sensibility. Bloodgood moves straight into the meat and potatoes of oil on canvas wielding a palette knife that digs deep into the painting surface.
Study for Thing Language, 2008. Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 inches.
The energetic pathways, slices of line and color, variegated white surface are exciting. 
After Study 2 for "Invitation to Reclusion," 2007-8, oil on linen, 46 x 38 inches.
The reference to landscape is more overt early on, before he starts moving the line-shapes over a grid.
Study for Counter Piece, 2013 Oil on canvas, 16 x 10 inches.
Study for Enclosure, 2013, Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches. White as mass AND space.
Early Light, 2012, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
Pencil Clay, 2011, oil on linen, 92 x 76 inches.
Study for Composition by Field, 2008, oil on linen, 46 x 38 inches.
An outlier given its clear reference, but the stacked space fails to convince--a harbinger for the later grids?
X After 1000, 2000. Oil on linen, 92 x 102 inches.
This painting greets you upon entering the gallery, with simply gorgeous color and facture. Each tree element is blocked in, so while there is delicious variety throughout, and we see the wonderful passages clearly, the repetitive monotony of each foliage elements is far less interesting than in scroll painting. It makes evident he wants to extract an essence from Chinese painting, but it's not going to be plant idioms. But the exciting rocks!! I could stare at them all day.
August 15, 1992, pastel on paper, 18 x 23-3/4  inches
The other day I fell into conversation with a fellow customer at Soho Art Materials: Susan Hartnett. Here is another person influenced by Chinese painting--also working relatively 'dry'--on pastel and paper from grasses. Hartnett has over 2,000 of these drawings and creates them daily. These images are screen grabs from Danese-Corey and Xeno X galleries.
The exquisite October 12, 02 #1, from 2002--charcoal, 22.25 x 30 inches
Related so much to Bloodgood--I wonder if he knew her work, and am sure he did: Susan Hartnett's
February 1 '97 Into the Woods, Into the Snow, 1997, pastel on painted paper,  49.75 x 64.25  inches

Friday, July 27, 2018

Painting Now and Forever, Part III. Plus, Seed.

At Matthew Marks' 3-gallery dedication to the state of painting one confronts a haloed, textural cat painting. Linda Stark, 2005. Check this link for installation shots: Gallery Link
So great to see Sylvia Sleigh's nudes of art critics and friends, welcome and surprising harbingers from another time.
Suellen Rocca's strange, figurative landscape hybrids are new to me despite her membership in Chicago's Hairy Who.
They are wonderful!
Sylvia Sleigh
Both look perfect at this moment in time right now. 
New-to-me painter Noah Davis, who is deceased at 32! He studied at Cooper Union, and lived in Ojai, CA.

Goofy island narrative painting by Bhupen Khakhar from 1984 (detail)

Lois Dodd from 1972--she is so good--the website has a far better image of this.
Karl Wirsum - great to see the Imagist work.
It looks so fresh.
Offset with a painterly surface by Leidy Churchman, whose title is larger than the work itself.
and more amusing, if not malevolent, narrative by Jill Malleady (2018).

Leidy Churchman's The Teachers, 2018. I enjoy seeing someone working each painting uniquely--resonates.
Beautiful green painting by Xinyi Cheng, 2016.
Luchita Hurchado, 1970. 

A painting from one of my favorite Lois Dodd exhibitions ever--

Weird, handsome painting by Avery K. Singer.
Janeva Ellis from 2018. 
In the reals, these were very handsome small abstractions by Matsumi Kanemitsu.

Rachel Harrison at Greene Naftli's portion of the show. Gallery Link
A simply wonderful, new Nicole Eisenman at the Greene Naftali portion of the survey.
And another.

 A ginormous portrait from Jana Euler, 2017

Subtle surfaces like Vija Celmin's get lost in translation...
As do these Allan d'Arcangelo 1970 beauties. 
Abstraction in the back room at Greene Naftali 


Elegant paintings and relationships.

Magnus Andersen, 2018
Rodney McQuillan
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Shara Hughes in Seed at Paul Kasmin, curated by force Yvonne Force:  Gallery Link
Theodora Allen's broken heart, very 70s in coloration and finish--
As is this Robin F. Williams painting and
strangely smeared portrait by French-born, LA-based Claire Tabouret
Here's Sarah Peters, Cecily Brown, Lisa Yuskavage

A beautiful installation moment. 
Summer Wheat
Ruby Sky Stiller, who shows at Beauchene and works with figurative structures.
Ginny Casey, 2018