Saturday, July 02, 2022

Philip Guston at the MFA - Long Overdue



I didn't think any Guston show could top the Hauser and Wirth exhibition last year, but I was wrong.

The bittersweet mountain in formation: Art Institute of Chicago collection. How well I remember this painting, except for the smudges behind--a row of spectators.

If it Be Not I, Guston's early Iowa, post-WPA narrative.

Krazy Kat comic influence.

Hands and trash-can-lid symbols--cymbals.

Early and late paintings mixed together at the start of the exhibition.

The going gets good with this gray studio painting.

Never before have I seen such a clear progression of visual language in Guston's work.

These red and black stacks have the control of the early work but foresee the mountainous piles of the later work. Their imagery is also joined at the seams, like airplane wings.

Fable, 1956-7

Circa 1968, when Guston goes to Rome, draws with ink for a year, and begins to rethink abstraction.

Returning to Krazy Kat and others, things he knows to be certain.







Piero della Francesca, his greatest influence.

Images of his studio.

His Piero painting.

Detail of his frothy round brush, the sumptious oily liquid quality of generous brushstrokes.

Never before seen drawing.

High on a wall of small paintings.

See Joan Mitchell in this as well. Tearing open skeins of paint, in Guston's case to find image.







Superb. Words unnecessary. 

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Dee Shapiro at David Richards, Harlem location

Dee Shapiro's recent exhibition of new work (2019-current) at David Richards. In lieu of the boilerplate bio, she ruminates on her origins and formative artistic inspirations. It's fascinating to read her and to see her new work. From my own wallpaper paintings of 2016-2017, I feel kinship with her desire to rework borrowed imagery, by now part of a shared visual lexicon, and the pleasure she takes in re-imagining the scenarios anew.

Streaks of paint determine points of demarcation in Shapiro's figures, which she patterns around.
"When I was four, my mother taught me to knit. I was intrigued with the counting and the patterns that developed. In retrospect it was a great influence on my choice of subject in my work. As I got older, I was attracted to numbers, math and puzzles. Again, I had no idea that my future would include anything related to those interests." Shapiro's work in With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in Art at LACMA and Hessel showed tightly layered and densely colored lines in a grid-like weave and tondo format - photo on link by Anne Swartz.

"In my spare time, I drew and seemed to be good at it. In elementary school, I won the art award. That was a confirmation for me that I could take it more seriously and so I studied art at Queens College. A semester in Mexico, studying art, further shaped my interest in pattern."

"The Albers Color Course was instrumental in my involvement with colors. And the work in the show is often mistaken for weaving and people like the surprise to find it is paint."

"I am a feminist and much of my work is identified with feminism in that the work is often associated with female sources or influences. [Shapiro is a member of Women Writing Women’s Lives and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.]I don’t notice a shift in my practice but there has been a societal change among feminists since the beginning of the Women’s Movement." I relish her unabashed interest in these themes and her incorporation of collage into the brilliant hues of her large works.

"Pattern and decoration relates to the once pejorative of ‘decoration’ associated with craft or low art. The Pattern and Decoration movement elevated ‘decorative’ to high art. All art is decorative, is it not?" Shapiro asks. I love the pieced-together methodology she uses as well, a natural and informal way to work.

"Systemic painting means simply that one uses a system to make the work. It can be numbers or symbols or anything that is repetitive and organized. The best of it demands figuring it out as well as providing a visual delight.

Pattern can be systematic or not, but often is repetitive. My experience as a textile designer taught me about the repeats of an initial image, thus creating a pattern."

A beautiful drawing, cited from sources like the paintings are. I was thrilled to discover like me at age ten, Shapiro found formative inspiration in Stella's Protractor series! She states, "One major influence that I can remember was seeing the Protractor Series by Frank Stella in the late ‘60’s. By then I had two children and had been teaching since graduation. It was the geometric and decorative qualities that really knocked me out. My work up to then was mark making, somewhat minimal, yet patterns seemed to develop in some mysterious way."

 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Stanley Lewis at Betty Cunningham



Behold the world of Stanley Lewis, who observes, "the harder you concentrate, the more treacherous it becomes." Backyard with a Wagon, Table, and Chair, 2022, oil and acrylic on canvas, @53 x 65 inches.

Mounted on thick, pallet-like boards, this monumental painting takes time to absorb, and apparently to paint--Lewis worked in the frigid cold on a scaffolding that adjusted to angles viewing areas of the yard.

It's a first to know acrylic was involved in the welter of marks and calibrated color.

There's loads of paint, also plastic mesh, scraps of canvas, the painting literally buckles at the bottom with the weight of all that backyard. It's simply a pleasure to behold so much information, so structured yet recreating the world with aplomb, true compression and expansion.

Table, House, Wagon, oil on canvas, 17 x 23 inches (approximately)

Intersection Post Road and Compo Road, 2015-19, acrylic on paper, 28.5 x 30 inches

Lewis' drawings are equally worked and complex, added to as the paintings are. Lovell Lake Through the Trees, 2021, ballpoint pen and pencil on paper, 11.5 x 15.5 inches


View of the Garden with Orange Fence II, 2020, acrylic on paper, 38.5 x 33.5 inches
Filled to the brim, yet spacious, and the eye climbs almost anywhere.

Odd, flattened trees, adding dynamic planar impact that condenses the weight of the painting in a focual point; changing stripes on the house, so surprising

Getting wild with orange fencing, he exclaims in a (hand-written) letter to Cunningham, "except the color is not good--too sweet, too summery, so much green and the garden fence is ORANGE."

My heart melts for this chair, beat up, hanging in there, holding its own.

Another surprise view of the garden and orange fencing in View of the Garden with Orange Fence I, 2021, acrylic on paper, 39.5 x 32 inches

The moment of realizing a clearing of white is on top, not beneath; you simply can't see that in the actual painting. The white between branches and top of car share the same plane in space, but never pictorially.

A Yale grad in the noteworthy 1960s,Lewis always represented Painting with a capital P (patriarchy too), with such a generous eye. Relentlessly pursuing his vision, he held his lamp close, recording visual secrets that unfold over years. 

Earth, bricks and mortar, embodiment and materiality: Northampton, MA, which  bracing climate yields to warmth hard-won. 

Paintings push hard, look carefully, match history in quality while revealing contemporary life. Epic surveys of a complicated landscape. I'd love to look at one all day, recreating, best I could with my eyes, the experience of painting it, layer by exquisite layer.