Sunday, December 21, 2008

Final post for 2008: Focus on Chelsea

Cheim and Read put on another great show for Joan Mitchell focusing on her sunflower paintings. The sunflower came of interest to Mitchell upon moving to the Seine Valley in the late 60s. The majority of the work is composed of blooming brushstrokes of blues, ochers, maroons, greens and dirty whites that all overlap as the surface and space are defined by Mitchell. I was literally taken aback once I turned to face the painting titled "Two Sunflowers" (1980). The deep warm yellows and ochres push out vibrantly against greens and pinks in the upper portion of the painting, and blues and violets along the bottom. The surface seemed to weather some sort of cataclysm, where the light of the yellows and ochres were doggedly forced to the surface. (Image from gallery website)

Nestled in the side gallery of Sikkema Jenkins & Co hangs a show of small and remarkably quiet paintings by Josephine Halvorson. The paintings are made with a sensitivity to touch and light that seem to suit the subject matter of Halvorson's paintings. Each painting is cropped close to the subject, creating an intimacy akin to portrait painting. (Image from gallery website)

Jonas Wood plays full court at Anton Kern. I could not help myself with the sports analogy given some of the basketball-inspired paintings in Wood's awesome show. I was at first concerned to see so much work, but my worries soon dissipated once becoming acclimated with the work on view. It's clear that the show is an example of an artist who is in charge of their practice and running on all eight cylinders. The painting titled "Robin with Phoebe" 2008 (an image can be found on the gallery website) made the biggest impression on me. I particularly enjoyed how the cat was painted and the way the plant in the background formed a pattern that Wood used to break up the space. (Image from gallery website)

Organic Geometry is a group show of abstract artists on view at Nicole Klagsburn. I found the show to be a real treat as my eye danced from one work to another. Each artist in the show has a particular way with form and color, that when used together is a real joy to look at and ponder. Days later I am still addicted to what I saw and I'm eager for more. The artists in the show are Alex Hubbard, Marilyn Lerner, Stephen Mueller, Cordy Ryman, Keith Sonnier, Andrzei Zielinski. (Image from gallery website)
Terry Winters show titled "Knotted Graphs" on view at Matthew Marks seems to be an example of an artist who has explored a variety of possibilities over the course of their career and is now distilling it all into one process. Aspects of Winters' early work with biomorphic forms, to later explorations with lines and patterns, all show themselves in one form or another. (Image from gallery website)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Focus on the Lower East Side

Due to life circumstances, such as losing my camera and needing to be in my studio for my show in LA this coming spring (not a bad problem to have), the nature of my posts and frequency will need to change. I will start to focus on neighborhoods rather than specific shows, and post on the ones that I am able to see. Because I lost my camera (at the New York public Library on 5th ave), I will be pulling images from gallery websites. The lack of posting lately is due to dealing with my own show up and all that comes with it.

Mary Heilmann at the New Museum is my favorite show the Museum has held so far. Stepping off the elevator, one is faced with paintings that are equally joyful as they are rigorous. While sitting in Heilmann's rolling chairs I was able to sit, relax and take in the selection of works on view. It's no surprise that the show began at the Orange County Museum of Art in California. Her work has a distinct LA feel. Images taken from the New Museum website.

On view at Eleven Rivington are the photos by Matt Ducklo. In his show titled, "Touch Tour Pictures," Ducklo photographs blind people experiencing sculptures the only way they can, through touch. The work being experienced by the blind and by us, vis-a-vis Ducklo, are all historically relevant and instantly recognizable to us, the seeing public. After spending some time with the work, I began to wonder about what it would be like to only experience Statue of "Herakles seated on a rock" through touch alone and without the understanding of form through sight. Sculptures often work by touch as well as sight, and I can imagine that even without the ability to see, the people experiencing this work are somehow privy to an intimate experience that we are not. Image taken from Eleven Rivington website.

Keltie Ferris finally gets a show all of her own at Sunday LES. After seeing Ferris's work in various group shows around town I was excited to see her first solo. My absolute favorite painting in the show is "Aviator." Ferris's abstractions have roots in abstract expressionism (something younger artists seem to be interested in these days) that provides a jumping off point in the work. She is clearly doing something different with process, materials and color to produce paintings that are very much of the moment and yet also of another time in pre-history. Image taken from Sunday LES website.

"With Out Walls" is a group sculpture show at Museum 52. There are currently no images on the web for this show. I attended the opening which was packed to the gills! There were people guarding the door and steps to keep from overcrowding. Artists in the show include:
David Altmejd | Gavin Anderson | Frank Benson | Sarah Braman | David Brooks | Nathan Carter | Nicole Cherubini | Devon Costello | Taylor Davis | Lucky DeBellevue | Lansing-Dreiden | Jac
ob Dyrenforth | Adriana Farmiga | Eric Fertman | Lars Fisk | Rachel Foullon | Daniele Frazier | Amy Gartrell | Sara Greenberger-Rafferty | Van Hanos | Valerie Hegarty | Corin Hewitt | Vlatka Horvat | Kevin Hughes | Timothy Hull | Matthew Day Jackson | Ryan Johnson | KB Jones | Jon Kessler | Anya Kielar | Aaron King | Blaze Lamper | Pam Lins | Matthew Lusk | Michael Mahalchick | Yuri Masnyj | Daniel McDonald | Curtis Mitchell | Virginia Poundstone | Yadir Quintana | Sean Raspet | Jacob Robichaux | Halsey Rodman | Heather Rowe | Macrae Semans | Anthony Titus | Kon Trubkovich | Johannes VanDerBeek | Nichole van Beek | Dustin Yellin

The artists are many, the work relatively small. As once artist put it, "It's like an enchanted forest."
Here is an outtake from the press release for the premise of the show: "The only specifications given to the artists were that the walls would not be used, and that the sculpture should be within the approximate dimensions of two foot high, one foot wide and one foot deep. The idea was to build a show through people we knew, whose work we admired, and others they, in turn, admired."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cole Case interviews Kris Chatterson.

Hi everybody,

Kris Chatterson and I have simultaneous solo shows up this month, if you're a New Yorker go see Kris' show at Greene Contemporary in the LES. Images in this post are both installation shots and pix of individual pieces - his "Nocturne" is my personal favorite. Congrats Kris on your first New York show! Cool!

The two of us decided we wanted to do something a little different for the blog other than just posting reviews and images of shows we've seen in our home cities, so we thought we'd interview each other asking questions about our respective processes and lives. We exchanged email questions and answered them and here are the results. I learned a lot I didn't know about how Kris operates and what the New York art world is like! I hope you all enjoy our exchange.

And by the way, the Louise Bourgeois show at MOCA rocks, if you live in LA you must see. What a tough 96-year-old artist she is! Utterly fearless, immaculately made work. Very moving.

(Cole Case) Has moving from LA to New York changed any aspects of your process, and if so, what and how?

(Kris Chatterson) Yes absolutely! But it’s hard to say or distill one specific thing because more changed than just moving to New York. Aside from moving, a big change was switching from acrylic to oil. I was really nervous to do it, but I knew I needed to in order to get what I ultimately want from my paintings, which is to exploit the working properties of oil paint to achieve a more luminous and visceral painting. I was experimenting in LA on the side with oil with no real luck. I finally realized in order to make the switch I needed to be fully committed. I knew my work would change anyway from the move, so I thought why not throw another wrench into the mix and see what surfaces. Just that simple change shifted my process a lot. I look back at the work in LA and realize that it had a lot to do with restraint and self-imposed limitations. The work I am making now has a similar framework but with more options. For example I have five different brushes and other tools I use to investigate a larger vocabulary of marks and spatial devices. I have also started working from drawings, which I never did in LA because the final image arose out of the process of the painting. I now keep three sketchbooks and I’m always recording things I see and ideas I get for new compositional arrangements and color. I then redraw the sketch at least four or five times; and if I am still excited about the idea, I make a small working drawing that is the premise for a new painting. Once the painting gets started, the drawing is put away and I take the painting on as its own endeavor.

The "how" of your question has a lot to do with working as a painter in New York. This is really home base for painting. I have the opportunity to see a lot of work and meet a lot of artists who I admire and respect. In other words, I’m saturated. Painting in LA always needs something to g
o along with it. You can't just be a painter — you’re an "LA Painter." In New York you can just be a Painter and all that comes with it for better or worse.

(C.C.) How did you develop your huge brush technique?

(K.C.) The big brush technique emerged out of a series of works I made as I exited graduate school. I eliminated everything I was doing in school in order to see what would emerge. I started with making small works on vellum using simple lines with ink. I was exploring the grid then warping the grid and finally destroying the grid with swatches of paint applied with a bigger brush. I’m always rebelling against myself. I have always felt more comfortable working large, so the q
uestion was how can I keep the scale of mark with a large painting. I had to actually build brushes by aligning smaller brushes together on a strip of wood that was then attached to a long pole. The big brush has more to do with the proportion of the mark to the size of the painting rather than just making big marks for the sake of it.

(C.C.) Do you work on the wall or the floor?

(K.C.) My way of working in LA developed into a process of working horizontally on the floor. I mixed large amounts of acrylic paint and poured it directly onto the canvas that was then manipulated with my custom-made brushed. I now find myself working more vertically with the paintings. The importance of the large marks has diminished. I am interested in manipulating space with gradations and glazes, so my process has become, in some ways, more traditional but also more complex as I am as
king more from myself and the paintings. When it comes to the larger passages of marks I do move the painting to the floor.

(C.C.) What governs your color decisions?

(K.C.) I ask myself that question a lot. There are certain colors that I am drawn to, like orange and blue. Usually before I decide on the color I think about the temperature I want the painting to be and the kind of light and space that I am after. Once I know that, I think about how much contrast I want or don't want and go from there. Usually I end up with something c
ompletely different, but still roughly, if not on the same page, at least in the same book.

(C.C.) How do you choose your paintings' scale and proportions?

(K.C.) I first think about what I want the painting to do. How I want it to interact with space and people. I then go through a process of taping out the wall so I can actually see the scale and get a feel for it. I move things around and once I'm happy I measure it.

(C.C.) How do you come up with titles?

(K.C.) I name my paintings rather than title them. Titles are for book and movies. I live with these things so after
a while a name comes along. Usually there are a few names before resting on one definitive name.

(C.C.) Has being married had an impact on those same factors?

(K.C.) Yes and no. I actually never thought of myself as ever getting married. What I feel I have is a life partner and best friend. That definitely ups my confidence.

(C.C.) As a 5th generation Californian, New York is this exotic fantasy world to me, like the Oz of Painting. Elaborate on what's the same, what's different, and what are the best -- and worst -- aspects of each city as a place to be a painter.

(K.C.) Great Question!
Overall each city has it's own history with regard to painting. The two general differences are that LA is more cool and conceptual and NYC is more rough, painterly and tied to painting’s history. A question I am always asked here, but rarely asked in LA, is "Who are you looking at." LA can be a little suspicious about painting I feel. In NYC painting is a very serious proposition and in LA it's more tongue-in-cheek. One of the biggest differences in LA is the pleasure principle seems to be king. By that I mean painting is about visual pleasure or the pleasure of painting. Michael Reafsnyder's signature smiley face comes to mind. At the moment all of the old ideas each city has about art are in flux due to the collapse in the market, so it's hard to give a definitive answer. I h
ave already detected changes here in NYC. Right now in New York it's all about the Lower East Side. There are a lot of young dealers showing new art by young and not-so-young artists.

In terms of living and working as a painter you really can't compare. It’s really two different ways of living and engaging the community. In New York life is on the street and it is very easy to do a lot in one day. LA is life stuck in traffic, so it’s a slower pace. Once you get to where you are going you generally want to stay in the vicinity.

In the end, LA and NYC need each other even if reluctantly so. LA has the highest concentration of MFA programs in the world. That is a big deal and means to me that the experience of being a young artist in LA is an important one. A lot of these MFA grads will end up in NYC and LA galleries and go on to shape this and following generations.

Keep in mind though that New Yorkers have a similar view of LA as being a fantasyland. I remember driving towards Pasadena on the 210 being able to see downtown LA in the distance and thinking to myself, "It's just like Oz."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Kris Chatterson interviews Cole Case

On the occasion of Cole Case's second solo show at Western Project titled "When We Did Believe In Magic And We Didn't Die", I interviewed Cole about his new work and life in SoCal. Enjoy!

(Kris Chatterson) What changes occurred in your work moving from your first show to your second?

(Cole Case) I added some new moves, dropped some old one
s, played with different scales a lot more, tried new ways of addressing my subject matter and used more photo references. What all these things have in common was, basically, I loosened the fuck up from the more restrictive and tight practice that you saw in the first show.

(K.C.) How did you come up with the title for your new show at Western Project?

(C.C.) It’s a line from “Peacebone”, a song by Animal Collective. I thought it was a beautiful line and reflected wha
t I am trying to do with the paintings.

(K.C.) How do you choose your subject matter?

(C.C.) All the paintings are either OF a specific personal memory or ABOUT a specific personal memory. WHY personal memories are my subject matter is a 3-hour-3-bottles-of-wine dinner conversation, so we’ll keep it simple for now. O
ne of the issues I have living in Los Angeles is that some of my personal memories intersect with the memories of Angelinos as a group, so I have to be careful in how I handle certain iconic imagery like Tail O’ The Pup, the Hollywood sign, or El Coyote. Some of those places are so familiar that the viewer can’t get past their own recognition of the place and get into my painting. It’s a block for them. Like, “Oh yeah, Tail O’ The Pup, I loved that place!” and then they just walk away. But there is definitely a back-story to every painting. My friends and family know them, but I try to keep that information away from most viewers so they can have their own experience of the painting without telling them how they should think about it.

(K.C.) Do you paint from life or from photos, and why?

(C.C.) F
rom memory and photos, never from life. Since the paintings are always about the past, unaided memory or aided memory (photos) are pretty much the way to go. However, sometimes I will refer to something that is physically present in the studio or outside of it (like the sky), but it’s not like I’m painting a still life by looking directly at the objects. I’ll just look at the things briefly for a color check or how light reacts to their surfaces.

(K.C.) Your surfaces are very complex, running the gamut of painterly techniques. How do you determine the surface, do you know in advance or does it occur within the making of the painting?

(C.C.) Both. Sometimes I go in with a very specific predetermined idea of what move to make for what area of the painting. Sometimes I decide while the painting is coming together and I’ll change things. Lately, every painting starts with a rubbing of asphaltum oil paint on the panel and a rough und
erpainting on top of that, also with asphaltum—very old school. I just started doing the dripping/pouring move in the last year. I like to have a variety of moves in every single painting and they usually tend to be binary opposites: thick/thin, matte/shiny, transparent/opaque, poured/brushed, stenciled/rubbed. I love alternating the precision of a 21st century computer-generated stencil with the 19th century mess of rubbing the paint with a rag. I stole that one from Manet. Thanks Ed!

(K.C.) A large part of your life was spent in So Cal. You were in a punk band as a youth. Do those kinds of experiences play into the work?

(C.C.) Yeah I was Geza X’s bass player in the early ‘80s when I thought I wanted to be a rock star. It was the BEST! So many great stories, oh man. It ended badly, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Geza was better known as a producer, he worked with the Germs and the Dead Kennedys among others. He’s still around. You can find video of him on YouTube. Music is hugely important to me and always has been ever since I was a little kid, which is why so many of the paintings are titled after bands and song titles. My memories usually have some “soundtrack” associated with them, so when it’s appropriate I’ll title the painting after the band and song that I associate with that place and time. The first thing I do with a painting is write the title and dimensions with a tagger Sharpie on the back — before I even do the underpainting. This is because I usually know exactly what I’m painting before I start painting it… It’s HOW I paint it that changes during the course of its becoming. I told two painters that I do this (Tom LaDuke and Samantha Fields) and they told me I was NUTS! Is that so weird? It makes sense to me!

(K.C.) You have an English degree from Stanford. Does that part of your life e
xperiences weigh in on your paintings?

(C.C.) Only insofar as the whole Stanford experience was part of my past. I have made four paintings about Stanford so far. Two were in my first solo show at Western Project in 2006, but neither of the other two has been exhibited. The BA in English Lit doesn’t really inform the work directly, it’s really more the whole experience of goi
ng to college and learning all these wonderful new things about art, philosophy, science and literature. And taking lots of drugs. I had a similar experience when I went back to Art Center twelve years ago (without the drug part), but making paintings about a specific art school, especially a very well-known one here in LA. It’s problematic to say the least, so I haven’t addressed that part of my life adequately yet.

(K.C.) In a review of your recent show, David Pagel of the LA Times observes that there are never any peo
ple in the paintings. It's always places. Is that because you are inviting us along to pull up a chair or get in the boat with you?

(C.C.) I’m putting you inside my head. There aren’t any people in the paintings because people always go away for one reason or another (death, etc.), and only the places and things remain.

(K.C.) There are two paintings in the show that I would like to ask questions about. Living on opposite coasts of each other I have not yet looked at these paintings in real, so I will ask questions with regard to them as images.

"The Arcade Fire; Wake Up" 2008 seems like a new idea in that the painting is of a space where masses of people come together. Most of your work deals with more intimate spaces or wide open vistas. What led you to this painting?

"The Ramones; Judy is a Punk" 2008 is the biggest painting I have seen you make. How did the idea come about for this painting and what determined its size?

(C.C.) The Arcade Fire have had a HUGE impact on me, I saw them live twice in 2007. Best shows I’ve ever seen. The Hollywood Bowl show in particular was transcendent. I think that they are a really important band and they totally restored my faith in rock music. I thought hard about including the cell phone lights because that implies presence – a mass presence, even - and my paintings are really about absence. It was too beautiful an element to exclude. I was a little worried about using the Bowl because it is such an iconic structure (remember Tail O’ The Pup), so I minimized it as much as possible.

"The Ramones; Judy is a Punk" 2008 is the biggest painting I have seen you make. How did the idea come about for this painting and wh
at determined its size? I wanted to make one painting for the show that really ramped things up scale-wise and tackle something that would take me out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to make a painting that was a tribute to my memory of the Ramones, and Johnny is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (You can just see his statue in the lower right. Dee Dee is buried there, too.). When I visited the cemetery to see Johnny’s grave, it turned out to be a really beautiful place and I took a bunch of pictures. When Cliff saw it under construction he said, “You do realize that because this is the biggest painting in the show it also has to be the best.” Nothing motivates me like a little pressure! I really had fun making that one.

(K.C.) Who are some of your all time artist hero
es, people that have really had an impact on how you work and the way you think about your work?

(C.C.) Philip Guston, because he shows that
you can completely change course and that that’s OK, and that cartoons are OK too. And he loves the sexy goopy materiality of oil paint as much as I do.
Robert Smithson, because we both think about dialectics, materiality, time, eternity and memory. If seeing the Spiral Jetty (in person) doesn’t move you profoundly, I don’t know what will.

Edouard Manet, especially because of “A Bar At The Folies Bergeres,” which like all his best paintings is about memory and ambition and sex and food and drink and fun and music and everything that makes life so sweet — while still being profoundly sad.