Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Art Before Language

Douglas Huebler, Dead Reckoning, 1964, oil on canvas

While Douglas Huebler is known as a conceptual artist who returned to making objects via text paintings, he is not known as an abstract painter. So it was fascinating to come across this painting in the Pérez Art Museum's permanent collection.

Huebler did have a somewhat recent exhibition (2017) at the Paula Cooper Gallery of his work from the sixties, but that revisionist show comprised  minimalist-influenced sculpture.

Dead Reckoning (1964) seems an anomaly then. And it perhaps answers at least a couple of questions concerning why Huebler went on to become a conceptual artist. The painting's colouration is muddily unresolved, yet it's tight angular composition and geometrically-shaped canvas seem to herald the new image painting movement of the seventies and eighties, especially the painterly but hard-edged, sculptural paintings of Elizabeth Murray. Huebler, ahead of his time yet short on technical or aesthetic resolve, was bent to be a first generation conceptual artist.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Link to my article on the underrated Hortense Gordon

Below is a link to my article on Hortense Gordon in Hamilton Arts and Letters. Gordon a member of the Painters' Eleven received less attention than less talented artists in the group, such as Harold Town. The article explores how Gordon's age, isolated place of residence, and gender contributed to her obscurity. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Queer Black Painting Again Stands Out

Jonathan Lyndon Chase
Riiiide or Die Boy, 2018
acrylic, marker, graphite, glitter, and plastic rhinestones on canvas
130" x 110"

Rubell Family Collection
Miami, Florida

I had the pleasure of a guided tour of the Rubell Family Collection in Miami during which I saw these remarkable figurative paintings (also with drawing and appliqué) by Jonathan Lydon Chase, a painter based in Philadelphia who is just three years out of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts MFA program. The intersection of queer and Black is not an unexplored merger, yet Chase's paintings are their own entities with their unabashed eroticism; simultaneous art historic and 90s hip hop referencing; and straight up academic faculty. I would love to see Chase's work in Canada, but since museums and galleries are still playing catch up, showing established rather than emergent Black artists,  I suspect it will be a long wait. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Marlon Kroll, Abstraction Infused with Pareidolia

Marlon Kroll
Blooming Planes, 2019
mixed media on gessoed muslin, mounted on panel
15" x 12"

Marlon Kroll
Thirsty Things
Clint Roenisch, Toronto
Jan. 31 - Mar. 16, 2019

Pareidolia, or the tendency to find specific, meaningful images in ambiguous visual patterns, often anthropomorphic imagery, has joined the ranks of contemporary art cliché or at best shorthand, along with potted office plants, piles of some type of detritus, and neon signs (otherwise known as Nauman's land). One does not have to make many gallery trips to see eyes and other human features poking out of abstractions. 

I suspect pareidolia's popularity stems from its potential to act as an easy way to update the zombie formalism of the aughts by infusing it with ambiguous anthropomorphic allusions, especially eyes, which form a perfect art market storm c. 2019 by combining surrealism and figurative painting.  Such is the case with Marlon Kroll's paintings in Thirsty Things. Kroll, a Canadian-German artist and musician based in Montreal, creates constructions, which like Blooming Planes, 2019, are  notable for their jarring juxtaposition of disparate material. But they do fall into pareidolia trope trap. Note the eyeglasses and tongue shapes in Blooming Planes. Besides, leaning paintings against walls has become a little tiresome, has it not?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Iris Häussler's Wax Museum

Iris Häussler, Mutter (Mother), 1998, fabric, wax 13" x 10" 

Iris Häussler Lost Gazes: Wax Works from the 1990s
Feb. 13, 2019 - April 6, 2019
Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto

Iris Häussler is known for her revealment of biographies, either real or fictional, through objects and their arrangements. One may view the roots of her methodology in this exhibition of works from the 1990s comprising fabric Häussler encased in canvas-shaped wax sculptures. Most compelling is a series that refers to the family vis a vis their laundry. Take Mutter, 1998, for example, in which blood-coloured, abstract-patterned fabric leaves the work open to multiple interpretations, including for some viewers the biological blood of family. While wax as encasement of personal history reads literally enough not to warrant further ponderance, wax as material evinces the shapes and forms that constitute the everyday in such a way that one is free to insert memories and associations into these lyrical objects.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Valérie Blass, Odd Couplings and Body Doubles

 Valérie Blass, La Partie Pour La Chose (The part for the thing), 2013, digital print, watercolour on matte paper

Valérie Blass, The Mime, the Model and the Dupe
Oakville Galleries
January 27 - March 17, 2019

While this is a painting blog, and Valérie Blass is primarily a sculptor, I was taken by this watercolour and digital print combo that was part of an exhibition surveying the artist's work over the last decade. 

I first saw La Partie Pour La Chose at Hole Gallery in New York over five years ago and was taken by the odd comedy of its jarring juxtapositions: intertwined rope and novelty masks rendered in colour before a grisaille background with two shadowy, hooded figures emerging from it. There are shades of Baldessari and Salle both in terms of its humour and the formal technique of placing colour highlights against black-and white backdrop imagery that appears filmic for its implied narratives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Nostalgia for Nineties Nostalgia in David Kramer's Paintings

David Kramer, Stupid Shit, 2018, oil, acrylic, enamel, pencil on canvas, 48" x 36"

David Kramer, Lodestar: Handmade Memes and Analog FeedsKatherine Mulherin Gallery, 250 Emerson Ave., TorontoDec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 12, 2019

Nostalgia in Post-Modern culture has been recycled so often that nostalgia chains form: in other words, nostalgia for an earlier decade that in turn was defined culturally by its nostalgia for an even earlier decade. Nostalgia two times over applies to David Kramer's painting. His retro Sixties and Seventies images - from groovy convertibles to soft lens porn shots - recall how trends and icons from those eras were fetishized in Nineties culture, for example in the film, Boogie Nights. It seemed at the time that the decade was an end-of-century mining and compilement of vintage kitsch that was then saturated with irony. The image of, say, the "square" picnickers preparing for a road trip (No Picnic, 2014) seen in the jaded Nineties may have carried an ironic bite, as did many images of pre-Sixties revolution culture, but its sharpness may be somewhat diluted in the eyes of today's viewers, who will not read it as a satire of their parents' generation as it was read twenty years ago. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see paintings recalling the retrograde media searches of the Nineties. After all, that was a time when we did not fear the future nearly so much as we do now (remember "the end of history," the "information highway" leading to utopia, and the "we are the world" let's-hold-hands-across-the-world optimism of globalism), and thus we did not mind looking backward with a confident, cocky glint of the eye.