Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Rubell Collection's 1980s Period Rooms

Visited the Rubell recently, where I saw a fine Mickalene Thomas in Room 2, from 1997 or so when she first started using patterns in her work, inspired by how Faith Ringgold and Carrie Mae Weems worked from their experiences in their art works.  Rubell Museum Miami

I didn't see how Mickalene Thomas' use of pattern, glitter, and brilliant color, all qualities I value greatly, related so intimately with her childhood until extremely recently. Perhaps that is the unfolding of art over time as bodies of work, affinities, or simply understanding on a deeper level converge and can be seen in one's own work. Above, is Room 9, screenshot from the Rubell website and featuring headlining artists from my graduate school years in the late 1980s, L to R: Meyer Vaisman, Peter Halley, Haim Steinbach and Allan McCollum on the walls, and Jeff Koon vacuums on the floor. These artists, who came of age with the East Village gallery International with Monument, I perceived conceptually without understanding how their work engaged aesthetics as d├ęcor.

Nearby, in Room 13, L to Right: Robert Longo Cindy ShermanLouise Lawler, or Sherrie Levine between, Richard Prince. In the 80s, the gritty, urban use of black + white and found sources seemed irreverent, punk even--informed by nightclubbing, rooftop parties, and a streak of violence that now, comprise an aesthetics of that time, when hyper-vigilance first kicks in. Ngai describes the gimmick as "A compromised form bound to an ambivalent judgment (the split between experience and vigilance -Ed.) that its perception spontaneously elicits, the gimmick is an entirely capitalist aesthetic. In this case both: these once-shocking works might be experienced as nostalgiic, though they maintaining their charge for this viewer.

I remembered so well Allan McCullom's proposal of the frame as a surrogate but forgot the embodied lumpiness of their hand-painted forms. The blank black subjects within the frames, commenting on commodity culture as dispensable, are equally aesthetic with the dualistic split in consciousness Sianne Ngai proposes is informed by late capital in her 2021 book Theory of the Gimmick (thank you Mary Jones): "As a judgment, however, the gimmick contains an extra layer of intersubjectivity: it is what we say when we want to demonstrate that we, unike others implicitly invoked or imagined in the same moment, are not buying into what a capitalist device is promising." Jeff Koons' vacuum cleaners with their bland reframe join the critique, recasting 1950s domestic labor for public contemplation.

Tishan Hsu and Meyer Vaisman. The Hsu has the bland corporate affability of Richard Arstschwager's scultpure while Vaisman's accumulations share territory with LA guru John Baldessari.

An early Peter Halley Conduit back wall, two Koons vacuum cleaners

Very early David Salle, who, like Vaisman and Baldessari, treated the photograph as a readymade, a found image. A suprisingly raw painting, as if unloading the contents of his brain. The first time I saw a Salle was in the Count Panza de Biumo Collection at MoCA Contemporary in 1985. The guttural, deskilled but compelling slashes of brilliant tube color stayed with me as an alternative to rules-bound decorum taught in undergraduate school. Apparently I was not the only person seduced. What makes this painting wonderful is the emptiness and the liquid ground in contrast to the scrubbed or drawn paint.

Men in the Cities! Classic Robert Longo drawings that use a method he continues today in large-scale, operatic commentaries on climate change and politics. Longo joined Salle, Julian Schnabel, and Eric Fischl as the Four Brushmen of the Apocalypse circa 1987. Longo later directed the film Johnny Mmemonic, and shows with Pace.

Richard Prince, working with advertising images and here the NYT, working for and against nostalgia and fair use--so the work never dates. 
The objects at Rubell clarify struggles in consciousness, the curse of self-awareness that implicitly critiques its work. This relates to doubt as pertains to Guston or Cezanne but equally a doubt special to late capitalism, in which everything can be seen as a gimmick. This in turn engenders a traumatic split as explained by Jungian analyst Donad Kalsched in a 2006 interview with Daniela F. Sieff: "The initial moment of psychological dissociation is a miraculous moment in that ... defensive splitting saves the child’s psychological essence in an encapsulated state, but it is also a tragic moment because with this splitting the child steps out of the reality and vivacity of his or her life. It is a moment when the child separates from experience, goes into trance, and when the child’s capacity for genuine and trusting human relationships starts to disintegrate." All of these factors seem to be in play since the epoch of these Rubell Period Rooms.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Figure Painting: Leland Bell at NYSS and Christina Quarles at Hauser & Wirth

Leland Bell at NewYork Studio School in Paint, Precision, and Placement: a series of self portraits and multifigure paintings.

Rigorously observed, yet concise, Bell's geometric planes are completely satisfying.

He's using the classic palette of transparent red oxide, cold black, and zinc white to build warm and cool neutrals.

The results are different every time as he wrings all he can from the limited palette.
We begin to know the artist by his revelatory self-portraits.

Beautiful tonal range. The butterfly's path is traced in both gesture and cloth.

The doubling of a curtain, the interlocking shapes.

Somewhere between Balthus, Helion, and Wesley,
Not to mention Poussin.
For all the reduction, there's still a lot of paint going on.
Third version of an urban couple and their cat.


Sweet, early Bell in hallway.

Christina Quarles, in her exhibition "In 24 days Tha Sun'll Set at 7pm" at Hauser & Wirth. The solidity of geometric planes gives way to gestures amidst swaths of empty canvas.

Pleasing depth to the large canvas, about 3 inches, at least 2.5.

Surroundings have more physicality than the figures.
Opticality as well.

Washes, solid areas, differing systems, coming out of drawing.

The feeling state enters: rather than the eye-to-eye confrontation with the self, bodies act quickly, sometimes furtively or restlessly, within delineated patterns. The patterns organize what's going on.

Details contain memories.
LA architecture: patios, bright color, and various applications recalling the PoMo architecture of the late 1980s, like the Memphis Group in watercolor. 


Wednesday, October 05, 2022

More Uptown on a Rainy Day: Sharon Butler at Jennifer Baahng and Jackie Saccoccio at Van Doren Waxter.

Sharon Butler, Next Moves at Jennifer Baahng, here a quartet that only the gallery's installation photos capture beautifully:
Wanting to capture the subtleties of the color under the moody, flickering light from the window, I opted for details.

Butler's color has always been subtle, low, but she is neutralizing the color in ways that belie her sources and imbue her surfaces with soft painterliness.
The install is a compendium of disparate cosmologies and networks, and each painting builds its own unique world, heightened by the additional canvases that extend and expand the original impetus.

Starting here...

Variegated surfaces of paint complicate straightforward color, as do the variety of lines and shapes.

What are these glitches, blotches of color inside a color?Bringing to mind Avery, and also technology, the way digital images blur and distort under faulty connection. But it's paint!

Soft and hard, like a tile floor dissolving into light.

The grid is a departure point from which the painting takes off.

Detail first, the line holding us in as the grid dissolves.

We hang on to the line but it can't tell us any more than the grid does: it's all abstract and yet familiar, so we are not lost. The touch conveys human presence while the imagery, if we can say that, imparts the experience of the screen.
The tripartite compositions are bodies of different information systems, the artist's vocabulary of block, grid, line altered by soft and firm touch.

In the back room a collection of works from the early 'aughts giving context to Butler's paintings, from

New Casualist collage (Butler coined the term in response to Raphael Rubinstein's Provisional Painting of 2009 and on Saturday October 8th speaks with him at the gallery. Her essay defining the term is here: to

early geometries to

graphite drawings

and exploratory paintings

and a new Modernism takes form, a Modernism fully conversant with technology, art history, and a new century. A modernism that insists on the human touch that bends and softens geometry.

Vignette of how it felt to see this show: outside, the street noise of horns and rain, inside, the respite and focus of a thoughtfully curated exhibition of paintings. History continues.

A spectacular debut.

Jackie Saccoccio at Van Doren Waxter: shimmering, insouciant, shot through with light.
This is her first posthumous show, considered thoughtfully by Caroll Dunham in the catalog essay for Tempestuous

It's wonderful to experience these paintings again, to have a chance to review them after the gallery exhibitions and first encounters of the aughts.

She uses a wide weave surface, that looks primed highly white, and the paint hits this surface in a randomly placed but very specific way. Pigment lands.

She lets it be. She said once it was so much simpler than she thought--and she was right.

These are relatively small paintings, from memory in the 24 inch range. Some look almost blurred, even when one is viewing firmly before it.

The photo could never convey the spatial compression in this composition but it is vividly there IRL.

The exhibition includes pastel and ink drawings on various size papers and mylar surfaces that show her concern with the footfall through space, first cultivated in her early experience at Giverny as Artist in Residence. Her first installations included these markings painted on the wall but by this point they are fully integrated with the pours.

A really fabulous viewing day.