Jun 072024

“Nathan (Venise) III”, 2024, Oil on canvas

“Le ciel est bleu, les montagnes sont vertes”, 2024, Oil on canvas

“Ce soleil est la mer tout entière de mon enfance”, 2024, Oil on canvas

“Le Sporting”, 2024, Oil on canvas

Christine Safa’s paintings for These are the days I (have) love(d) at Bortolami’s upstairs gallery, capture the way memories often feel. The figures emerge from her canvases in a beautiful, dreamlike haze.

From the press release-

Painted from the memories of time spent in and around the Mediterranean, Safa returns to the studio, distilling these instances, rendering intimate landscapes, portraits of friends, lovers, and reminisced occasions. At certain moments, the human body sublimates into landscape—a shoulder becomes a mountain, or the horizon blends with a profile—moving in and out of one another. In Safa’s words:

“I see my paintings as tributes, fragments of memories, that which remains. That’s what I paint, what’s left. As I paint, I give birth to the silhouette, the shape of the ruins of memories which both greet and are the victims of time; which for me means my experience of these interior landscapes.”

Layered imagery adjoins distinct recollections as Safa refracts them through her body and mind in her attempt to record them as precisely as she can. Each title furthers our understanding of the artist as both painter and poet, acting as poems unto themselves, enhancing the meaning she seeks through paint and pigment.

Safa’s use of color and texture play a pivotal role in achieving the dreamy poeticism in her work and harken back to the influence of 15th century Italian painting and its relation to frescoes. She achieves her vibrant pallet by mixing pure pigment with oil, and creates plaster-like surfaces with rabbit skin glue and marble powder. This chalky, thickened substrate allows her to probe the canvas, to carve and scrape in her search for the image. The process is rightfully a slow one, as Safa forever encapsulates these fleeting moments into canvas, and her practice thus reveals itself as the poetic investigation and recollection of time passed.

This exhibition closes 6/8/24.

May 022023


Currently on view at Bortolami is Tom Burr’s excellent multimedia exhibition. With new discoveries around every corner, the show keeps you engaged, at times even on an emotional level.

From the press release-

Once more Burr has assumed his dual role as artist and exhibition maker, relocating the act of making from the traditional studio space into the gallery. An architectural intervention of four walls defines the show, a deconstructed box whose contents have been scattered both in view and out of sight yet remain connected on levels of materiality, memory, biography, and history. Moving through the gallery, the viewer is directly confronted by Burr’s work, activating the artworks and the physical space created for them. As the interconnectivity of the different facets of the exhibition comes into view, not only here and now but in its connection to the entirety of Burr’s career, we begin to understand this as not merely an assortment of objects as artworks, but on a larger scale as a total artwork.

Four new wooden panels populate each makeshift wall, continuing the signature plywood sculptural series begun in the 1990s. Each painted a different color, the artist loosely utilizes the shipping crate motif, a point of interest for Burr. Adhering stainless steel and brass plates to each panel, the images portray the artist himself as well as his own simulation of stereotypical “faggy gestures,” as he refers to them, creating an intersection of public expectations of artistic sensibility, identity performance and exposure.

Also on view in the main gallery are a series of furniture-based sculptures. Set behind the walls, each work draws the viewer into the constructed architectural space as they grapple with themes of legacy, memory, and biography. Pulse utilizes various items once belonging to the “lounge” at Burr’s project space in Torrington, Connecticut—a disco ball, a couch, a lamp, a wool blanket — the disco ball being a relic from American Fine Arts, the legendary SoHo gallery run by Colin de Land where Burr exhibited throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Accompanying the work is a wall text listing the various academic definitions of the word “pulse,” while the last line, a new addition by the artist, is a reference to the infamous shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a signal to both the individual and communal meanings associated with the word. Similarly, the artist has gathered various items belonging to his father to create Johns (my father’s chest)—a chest of drawers, long johns, a metal storage box, and a handkerchief— evoking the same ideas of legacy and biography.

A new photo series entitled Capricornus I, II, III, and IV lines the outer walls of the main gallery. Depicting Burr in the three public bathrooms of his Torrington space, he is in the midst of various movements—lounging, laying down, reading. In a string of associations from Bruce Nauman to Francesca Woodman, as well as nods to his own past work, here the studio becomes a stage as Burr equates the everyday banal and artmaking.

Occupying the small gallery space, Floor Model (adolescent), is the most recent continuation of the artist’s series His Personal Effects, while in the office Burr has installed a series of new collages made in homage to Stefania Bortolami. The Visit, I, II, III depicts images of a visit by Bortolami to Burr’s space in Torrington, CT, as well as images of plant foliage from Burr’s seminal work, Construction of An American Garden, currently installed in the Torrington space. In the words of scholar and curator Blake Oetting “the body of the dealer emphasizes the commercial system that supports Burr’s work and translates it into exchange-value, a framework, he reveals, that often moves beyond the physical boundaries of the gallery.”

This exhibition closes 5/4/23.

Feb 232023

Cynthia Talmadge, “Goodbye to All This: Alan Smithee Off Broadway”, 2023 installation view

Cynthia Talmadge, “ACT 2: The Cabana”, 2022

Cynthia Talmadge, “Maserati (Dream Sequence)”, 2022

Cynthia Talmadge, “Maserati (The Strasberg Institute)”, 2022

Cynthia Talmadge, “Walk of Fame” 2023

Currently in Bortolami’s upstairs gallery is Cynthia Talmadge’s imaginative exhibition, Goodbye to All This: Alan Smithee Off Broadway.

From Bortolami’s press release-

“We find the narcissist in a reflective mood.” — stage directions penciled into a draft of act III, scene 1 of Alan Smithee’s Goodbye to All This

“Alan Smithee” is a pseudonym used by Hollywood directors to remove their names from movies over which they have lost creative control. In this exhibition Cynthia Talmadge animates Smithee, imagining him in the mid-1980s as a down-on-his-luck, middle-aged baby boomer, trying, elaborately but ineptly, to revive a career defined by burned bridges, bad behavior, and commercial failure. The show takes as its premise a fictitious play, an autobiographical avant-garde off-broadway Bildungsroman written and directed by Smithee in an effort to engineer his come back. The play–entitled Goodbye to All This is what Talmadge imagines as Smithee’s clumsy inversion of the title of Joan Didion’s essay about leaving New York for California – tells Smithee’s version of his rise and fall in Hollywood and his subsequent departure for New York, culminating in his redemption as a New York theater artist.

The only substance to the real-world “Smithee” is an extensive filmography of more than 80 credits. Talmadge takes this output at face value, envisioning for us the detailed biography and personality of a director whose career persists despite every job he’s done having gone badly awry amidst professional conflict. For Talmadge, this makes him a dubious American icon: an epitome of privilege and unwarranted confidence; a guy who – at least until recently – could only ever fail up.

Several Los Angeles and New York landmarks and former landmarks are included in the paintings along with Smithee’s Maserati- the Director’s Guild building, Chasen’s, the Friars Club, Scientology Celebrity Center, and the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and Elaine’s and The Lee Strasbourg Institute in New York. The Maserati’s final destination is 39 Walker in NYC, the address of the gallery.

The Playbill paintings have an incredible amount of detail within them and highlight the three acts of Smithee’s journey. The room includes a fallen column, a box of headshots, and Smithee’s set design model for Goodbye to All This, his autobiographical play.

Both Bortolami and Talmadge’s Instagram pages expand on the Smithee story in a few of their posts and are worth taking a look at as well.

This exhibition closes 2/25/23.