Apr 192024
 

I was very sad to hear the news of artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s recent passing. Throughout her incredible career she created work in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture, and narrative quilts. She also wrote and illustrated several children’s books- including the wonderful Tar Beach, based on one of the quilts, which won several awards.

Pictured above is American People Series #20: Die, 1967, currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

From the museum about the work-

Recalling her motivation for making this work, Ringgold has explained, “I became fascinated with the ability of art to document the time, place, and cultural identity of the artist. How could l, as an African American woman artist, document what was happening around me?” Ringgold’s American People Series confronts race relations in the United States in the 1960s. This mural-sized painting evokes the civil uprisings erupting around the country at the time. On the canvas, blood spatters evenly across an interracial group of men, women, and children, suggesting that no one is free from this struggle.

Mar 152024
 

“Northern Lights”, 1959, oil on linen

“Untitled (Near the Cove)”, c. 1958, oil on linen

“Fresh Air”, c.1958-1962, oil on canvas

Although better known for her figurative paintings, Jane Freilicher also created several large abstract paintings which were on view last year at Kasmin gallery in NYC.  The paintings hint at a recognizable landscape, but through her use of color and energetic brush strokes she evokes the feeling of being immersed in the beauty of nature- without the boundaries of a more realistic representation.

From the gallery about the work-

The exhibition presents a group of paintings in degrees of abstraction, realized by Freilicher between 1958 and 1962, a period of great inventiveness when the artist was spending stretches of time in Long Island but had yet to establish a studio there. The series marks a crucial moment of discovery and focus for Freilicher, who went on to integrate the freedom, fluidity, and confidence developed during this period into her more recognizable still lifes and landscapes of later decades.

Freilicher’s abstractions have their roots in observation, informed by her studies with legendary abstract painter Hans Hofmann at his schools in New York and Provincetown. In this group of paintings, pastoral landscapes from Water Mill, Long Island, are translated through the lens of the artist’s memory into confident gestural compositions defined by their use of color and sensitive depiction of light. In a 2006 interview for The New York Sun, the artist tells writer Jennifer Samet of this evolutionary moment in her practice: “I remember being overwhelmed by aqueous light and the obliteration of the horizon by fog.” Freilicher’s palette returns repeatedly here to a combination of off-white and light blue, rendered in loose brushwork across an expansive pictorial space to give a palpable impression of the airy, open landscape of the country.

Breaking out of the domestic scale necessitated by previous studio spaces, this generative period saw Freilicher regularly visiting Water Mill and then returning to her Manhattan studio where she would collapse the formal elements of the rural and coastal environments into energetic, improvisational paintings that were significantly larger than her earlier works. While approaching pure abstraction, the paintings from this period retain a compositional recognition of their ordering principles—the horizon line, a boat’s mast, the position of the sun in the sky, and, in the artist’s words, “long vistas of clouds and water.”

The metamorphosis of landscapes that figure prominently in the artist’s life are representative of, as Roberta Smith identified in 2006, “a more personal, grounded version of Color Field painting.” This observation bridges Freilicher to a loose group of contemporaries whose considerations of their immediate environments brought great warmth and aliveness to varying shades of abstraction—Milton Avery, Etel Adnan, Joan Mitchell, Agnes Martin, and Willem de Kooning (whose own abstract landscapes inspired by his time on Long Island went on view at Sidney Janis Gallery in 1959).

Mar 082024
 

“Valentine”, 2022, oil on linen

“Braid”, 2022, oil on linen

“Braid”, 2022, oil on linen (detail)

The two colorful paintings above are from Andrea Belag’s 2023 solo exhibition, Currents, at Bienvenu Steinberg & J in New York.

From the gallery’s press release-

Since the 1990s, Belag has constantly modified her approach to abstraction through various transitions and mutations. Her internal genealogy matters as much as her relationship to a tradition of abstraction. In the words of artist and critic Julian Kreimer: “it’s not hard to metaphorize those traces, lines left behind by larger swaths of paint that were wiped away, lines whose own shifting colors reveal how they are made by what they’ve touched and changed. But as with so many of Belag’s paintings, the point isn’t to nail down the metaphors (…) Belag’s work becomes an edge condition for painting without flirting with minimalist near-nothingness; it tests out where beauty can emerge, and what we can get to work. It opens up from a few wiped shapes into a sophisticated object able to transport one into a reverie about slippage, slipping away, the here and not hereness of life, death, and the varieties of love”.

Geometry and order have progressively given place to swirling swaths of color, solidity replaced by suspended motion. Painting is an all consuming action. She paints standing up, leaning over and often walking around the canvas placed horizontally. It starts with the arm and as she walks around the canvas her whole body gets involved. Transparent colors on the surface are not fixed and can create form or dissolve into light. She rubs, smudges, and scraps to create translucent, softly luminous surfaces where the brushwork is strikingly visible. “My paintings are contemporary because I paint in the here and now. It’s unavoidable. The artists I feel indebted to are Henri Matisse, Mary Heilmann, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter, Bill Traylor, and Japanese Zen gardens. Style is a dead-end, but I have a point of view. I love transparency and the touch of materials, so I have created a way of painting where I make this possible. I use mostly transparent pigments and fine linen, and I paint wet into wet. The marks are on one layer of the painted surface with very little overlap or pentimento. Color makes space and light come through the paint and emotion comes through as well. There is fear and desire in painting, and that’s addictive. Haptics are the touchstones.” (Andrea Belag, 2023)

Her current solo exhibition, Twombly’s Green, opened this week at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects.

From their press release-

This grouping of work is, as the title suggests, inspired by Belag’s recollection of Cy Twombly’s use of the color Hooker’s green in his “Pond Paintings.” She writes-

These paintings are inspired by my memory of Twombly’s green and white paintings that I first saw in the Menil Collection in Houston in 2015. I was stunned by his paint handling and his use of Hooker’s Green.

Since then, I learned he painted quickly and directly with his hands. Discovering the “Pond Paintings” was unexpected and I kept thinking about them. Hooker’s green is opaque and dark. But the dark value doesn’t overwhelm the hue. Instead, there is richness and depth without a trace of yellow.

When I identified the pigment and started to paint with it, I felt a vibration. There was a time when painting with green was taboo and now it is ubiquitous.

Is green in the zeitgeist?

All painted within the last twelve months, these works are a continuation of the artist’s practice of lush, energetic abstraction. Playing with circularity in an ongoing attempt to “get away from the grid,” Belag uses color as forms in space, bodies set in motion. Citing foundational inspirations in Matisse and Guston, who she later studied with at the New York Studio School, Belag’s work can also be related to vanguard practitioners of 80s abstraction such as Bill Jensen, David Reed and Mary Heilmann. Her immediate peers Christopher Wool and Joyce Pensato are also compass points in the stripped down dedication to raw painterly brio they share.

This exhibition is on view until 4/13/24.

 

Feb 092024
 

This sculpture, The Only Other, 2021, by the artist Midabi, was located in Union Square Park in NYC from June 2021- June 2022.

It is currently located adjacent to Palm Springs Art Museum in California.

Nov 172023
 

Above is Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds’s work Surviving Active Shooter Custer, 48 monoprints, 2018, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, on view in 2021.

From the museum about the work-

The term “active shooter” is one we hear too often in today’s news. Here, Heap of Birds uses this contemporary phrase to characterize massacres committed by United States troops against Native Americans in the 1800s. Each of this work’s panels contains six lines of text evoking the violence of not only this country’s history but ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities. The prints on the right are “ghost prints” of those on the left, made by using the residual ink remaining on the printing plate after the first print was produced. For the artist, these prints recall the “ghosts of a whole culture.”

In the video below from the museum, the artist discusses the work with two of MoMa’s curators.

Sep 122023
 

 

Above are two of the works from Athena LaTocha’s The Remains of Winter (Battle Hill, East), 2022, currently at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

From the cemetery’s website about the work-

Athena LaTocha creates large-scale works inspired by her close observations of the natural world, from the deserts and mountains of the Southwest to the Great Plains. She often incorporates elements of these environments, including soil, sand, bark, and rocks. Recently, she has been particularly drawn to trees, considering them as record keepers that bear the markings of time.

Inspired by Green-Wood’s centuries-old trees and its legacy as a place of remembrance, LaTocha has created The Remains of Winter. She cloaked the remains of two massive European beeches on Battle Hill in thin sheets of lead, a material that has been used for centuries in coffins to slow the decomposition of the body. By hand-forming this malleable metal onto the trees, LaTocha captures the unique details of their shapes and forms, even as they slowly degrade beneath the lead.

All around these sculptures, the Cemetery is in a continuous cycle of transformation. Felled trees are turned into mulch for new plantings, earth is removed then replaced for each new burial, and even the stone monuments themselves slowly erode. Through The Remains of Winter, LaTocha memorializes these shifts and changes while also raising profound questions about what we choose to commemorate and mourn—whether it is what we can witness before us or that which, like the movement of continents and land masses, unfolds over lifetimes.

The sculptures will remain on view through September 2023.

May 212023
 

The above photos are of Sanford Biggers’ sculpture The Oracle when it was located at Rockefeller Center in NYC in 2021, where it was part of a multimedia installation.

It now resides outside the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, on the new outdoor sculpture pedestal on Wilshire Boulevard and Glendon Avenue. It will be there until March of 2024.

From the Hammer website about the work-

Anchoring this corner is Oracle (2021), a cast bronze figure weighing 7.64 US tons (15,280 pounds) and standing at 25 feet tall. This monumental commission from Biggers continues his “Chimera” series that hybridizes the canonical figures and gestures of Greco-Roman sculpture with an assortment of iconic African objects from the 14th–20th centuries. Unlike Biggers’s other “Chimera” sculptures that are made in marble, Oracle is cast in bronze. The seated figure in Oracle is a depiction of the statue of Zeus at Olympia, while the head is a composite of several masks and busts from different African cultures, including the Luba Kingdom and the Maasai.

Biggers sculpturally patchworks historical depictions of the body and their subsequent myths, narratives, perceptions, and power. Biggers is intrigued by the recent scholarship about the academic and historical “white-washing” of classical Greco-Roman sculpture simultaneously intersecting with the early twentieth-century “black-washing” of various African sculptural objects. Oracle challenges the associated cultural and aesthetic assumptions about their source material while acknowledging the often dubious origins of the original objects themselves.

 

Dec 172022
 

“Tower, Houston”, 2020

“Tower, Houston”, 2020 (closer look)

“City Square at 4 am (Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, Large Version)”, 2020

“Midtown, NYC”, 2020

The paintings above are from Daniel Rich’s 2020 exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery in NYC.

From the gallery’s press release-

Daniel Rich’s reticulated cityscapes and slick façades appear at first glance to be quite literally superficial. Whether it is a geometric exterior pressed close to the picture plane or a cluster of multiple structures glimpsed from a distance, we experience architecture in his painting as a wholly exteriorized phenomenon— looming close up or made smaller through a bird’s-eye view.

His process-oriented paintings offer windows to different parts of the world— some figuratively, others much more literally—and can evoke a distorted experience of temporality for the viewer. Like compositions by Bernd and Hilla Becher or Andreas Gursky, Rich’s artworks offer clinical, complex architectural views onto the world that are filled with subtleties. However, Rich differs from Becher or Gursky in his painstaking, intricate process of translating found images into painting. The works also evoke early 20th century European Modernism, recalling Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical cityscapes and Germany’s Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artists of the 1920s and 1930s.

Architecture, as it is commonly understood, is designed and implemented to house the human and is itself the manifestation of our constructed realities. When all signs of life are missing from buildings and spaces, as in Rich’s paintings, the result is an unsettling subversion that upends and questions what we have come to expect of both architectural spaces and the organized linearity of time. Rich probes viewers to consider what lies beyond the surface.

Rich also uses his anonymous architectural imagery to talk about history and politics. He speaks of his scenes as “failed utopias” and “changing political power structures.” In their seeming permanence, the fixed and rigid edifices that populate his work speak to a late capitalist urbanism that sees its monuments not as contingent, but as immovable and eternal.

His newest paintings are currently on view at the gallery for his exhibition Flat Earth on view until 1/28/23.

Jul 042022
 

Jasper Johns’ Three Flags, 1958, is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.

Information about the work from the Whitney’s website-

In 1954, Jasper Johns began painting what would become one of his signature emblems: the American flag. As an iconic image–comparable to the targets, maps, and letters that he also has depicted–Johns realized that the flag was “seen and not looked at, not examined.” The execution and composition of Three Flags elicit close inspection by the viewer. The painting draws attention to the process of its making through Johns’s use of encaustic, a mixture of pigment suspended in warm wax that congeals as each stroke is applied; the resulting accumulation of discrete marks creates a sensuous, almost sculptural surface. The work’s structural arrangement adds to its complexity. The trio of flags—each successively diminished in scale by about twenty-five percent—projects outward, contradicting classical perspective, in which objects appear to recede from the viewer’s vantage point. By shifting the visual emphasis from the flag’s emblematic meaning to the geometric patterns and variegated texture of the picture surface and the canvas structure, Johns explores the boundary between abstraction and representation. As he remarked, this painting allowed him to “go beyond the limits of the flag, and to have different canvas space.”