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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ARMORY SHOW

April 19, 2012

William Tillyer

Paul Jenkins – Phenomena Oracle Fan

Silvio Wolf

The Armory Show, as usual, was divided into Modern and Contemporary sections. The booths seemed larger but the show smaller than in prior years. Walking through the show, I was disappointed overall yet, writing this, there were a surprising number of revelatory pieces. Must have been the crowds. (Never, ever go on Saturday – can’t the people withd those double-width fighting strollers find babysitters?) Without conforming to the show’s structure, these are the standouts (note – these images may not be the pieces in the booths; photos were unabavailable):

D. Wigmore Fine Art

Paul Jenkins – Jenkins’ fluid abstracts were the standouts of the show. How I wish I had the wall space and the wallet. His work is lyrical, rhapsodic and powerful. How I missed this master of abstraction is absoutely beyond me.

Bruce Silverstein:

Silvio Wolf – his Mirror Threshhold series photographs digitally printed onto polished aluminum or mirrored plexiglass were wonders of luminosity and truly something new in photography

Trine Sondergard – created rooms of mystery and introspection in her photographs of doors and windows.

Marlborough:

Claudio Bravo – As always, the work evidenced Bravo’s mastery of hyper-realism and his love of laughter.

Stephen Hannock – Although a well established artist, Hannock’s landscapes were unfamiliar but intriguing.

Bernard Jacobson:

William Tillyer – wonderful abstract watercolors

Gerald Peters Gallery

Brought pieces from their show which included Steve Cope and Gerta Gundersen. (See earlier review of that show).

Louis Stern Fine Arts:

Lorser Fertelson – his later, purely abstract work.

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Sputnik Gallery: Andrei Chezhin and Natalia Zarovnaya

April 17, 2012

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since the wonderful Andrei Chezhin last showed in New York. Chezhin took advantage of his last show to photograph a variety of places on and around the heart of New York City.

Amy Kousnetsova has been advocating for years on behalf of Russian photographers. She speaks eloquently of the difference between the Russian and American artistic differences in this art form. I have to admit that it’s sometimes hard to see her point but this show elaborates it perfectly while simultaneously showing that artists from St. Petersburg and Moscow also see things differently from each other.

Chezhin is the essential St. Petersburg photographer. Think of St. Petersburg as a quintessentially Western city in the essentially Byzantine Russia. Without implying that there is anything but the greatest artistry there, it is a decorated city with wonderfully playful architectural detailing. Wryness seems to be a characteristic of its photographers.

Chezhin understands that, in New York, you have to look up to see the most intriguing parts of the city’s architecture, the parts where we most show our similarity to his home. He understands that New York is a place of bustle, of play, of seriousness, of openness, of closed doors and, most of all, of movement – and he brings our world to us in a kaleidoscope of light and dark repetition making us look at places we know with new eyes. Most interestingly compared with his prior work, de does not tint these works. We are as we are – a city of contrasts.

Natalia Zarovnaya, on the other hand, sees New York from the eyes of Moscow. Her instinct is to look below the surface for the meanings that underlie the statements. She looks for the core to find the essence, not at the visible elements to find understanding. We have apparently done a good job proving that truth is not to be found on the surface as Zarovnaya’s photos of layered reflections show. She too has found the essence of New York and its “through the looking glass” quality.

Zarovnaya concentrated this body of work on the World Financial Center. She has layered reflections of carious buildings and different parts of those buildings upon each other. The result is alluring, enticing, mysterious – and unique and quite excellent.

Unfortunately, there is very little time left to see this show, as it is closing on April 21 along with Sputnik Gallery. We’re promised that Sputnik will reopen in the fall in another location; hopefully, this will be the case as the gallery is too good and their point of view is too important to lose. For the time remaining, Sputnik Gallery is at 347 W 27 St., 5 Fl.

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THE MARCH ART SHOWS IN NEW YORK – POOL, SCOPE, FOUNTAIN

March 29, 2012

There’s no doubt at all – there are too many art shows. We all know that art is big business. True, few artists get wealthy and plenty of gallerists go broke. So who is it big business for – the people and companies who package the shows. Between what galleries pay for their booths and the fees individuals pay, the show packagers have every incentive to not care about quality. So all of us pay way too much to see far to little worth seeing.

I accept that, if someone calls one of their creations art, then it is art. That doesn’t mean it’s good art. If only there was some minimum quality standard at these shows.

Biggest complaint: the Korean and Japanese galleries. I recognize that these are cultures which are still socially repressed. So maybe in Japan and Korea, there is social value in breaking

cultural norms. Possibly in the US some time around 1923, nudes were shocking. They’re not, even when the subject’s genitals are the leading feature. The same is true for their cartoon characters – it wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad but it certainly was boring. I think we, as an audience, disappointed these gallerists. So galleries please take note, if you come to New York next year, please make sure the work is both good and exciting. This year, it was neither.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t some good work at the smaller shows.

Pool Art Fair

There was only one artist worth visiting and worth mentioning – the superb Madonna Phillips. Her work is, simply put, unique. She creates virtuoso paintings of glass. They are wonderfully complex structures of color and texture.

Can you imagine a rainstorm with puddles, sheets of rain and trees beaten by the rain executed in glass? Madonna Phillips can. What I don’t understand is why she hasn’t been picked up by a New York gallery. Her work is definitely the right caliber.

Madonna Phillips - Rainforest Series

Tom Cullberg - Abstract 31

Scope New York

Brundyn + Gonsalves from Cape Town, South Africa brought work by Tom Cullberg, a local artist who was born in Sweden. Cullberg’s abstract work is mostly highly intellectual but they included two pieces that incorporated both experience and intellect, especially a lovely piece entitled Abstract 31.

Fountain Art Fair

Without doubt the finest work at the show was’s work at the Tinca Art booth. Her self-revelatory abstracts, large and small, were standouts. We spent quite a long time chatting. It’s encouraging that someone in her 20’s talks about art having to come from the soul and not be created simply to shock. She’s someone to watch.

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Interiors / Exteriors at Susan Eley Fine Art

March 9, 2012

David Collins - The Upstairs

David Colling – Skiff
James Isherwood – Bender

James Isherwood - Sheer House

James Isherwood and David Collins presented a concept show at Susan Eley, running at her gallery on W 90 Street through April 15.

James Isherwood is a representational artist who uses photographs of high-concept luxury houses as the starting point for his paintings.  These paintings aren’t statements of envy, they’re the starting point for his imaginings.

Isherwood’s paintings are quite exceptional.  He works on board and paper and one of his most intriguing ideas is integrating texture into the body of his paintings.  He achieves this by, at some point in the process, pressing paper towels onto the wet paint.  This achieves two ends: it creates patterns as evident in Sheer House, but also removes paint, creating an effect as though you were looking at the painting through screening.  Quite interesting.  This effect can be seen quite well in Bender on the sides of the building.

You would expect the paintings’ surfaces to be rough, but they’re really quite smooth which is just another unexpected aspect of the work, as is the fact that each painting can take as long as three years to complete.  They don’t look at though they’re coated with resin to create the smoothness.  Just another of Isherwood’s mysteries.

It’s clear that these paintings represent complex interior emotions played out through architectural musings.

David Collins’ work is precisely opposite.  He’ll tell you that he’s working though the emotions of his early experiences but his work is extremely intellectual.  He’s thinking about places and his experiences in those places and he’s trying to tell you everything in one canvas.

Note how geometric Collins’s work is.  Everything is angular – there is no softness.  He uses a complex technique of taping and painting and layering to achieve this extreme of precision.

We discussed his intent as being similar to Margaret Withers in her paintings.  She too is channeling her childhood.  Withers’ iconography uses hands, lines and eyes, providing an emotional view of her past.  In contrast, Collins’ sharp points and irregular objects create an intellectual, neo-Cubist, externalization without warmth.

His paintings are good but they are cold.  I prefer the simplicity of Skiff, which I like very much, to paintings like The Upstairs.  I do think he has something going and would like to see more.

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One of the best shows of the season at Gerald Peters Gallery: Steve Cope, Greta Gunderson and Susan Williams

March 5, 2012

Greta Gundersen - Susurrus 4.21.10

Gerald Peters Gallery in New York sounded an early opening and set the bar high for the New York art fair shows with three very different, artists, two of whom are outstanding.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that Steve Cope is an old friend and a very talented fellow who happens to have been showing professionally since 1989. Steve has always had a light touch with his subject matter. His work has always had a whimsical element which, I suspect, has led critics to not take it as seriously as they should.

Prior to Steve’s first show at Gerald Peters in 2010 (which we also reviewed), he had radically rethought his work. Instead of large canvases, he was working on 1”x5” pieces of wood, using the finest possible brushes to create his miniature landscapes.

Steve is still working in miniature but (gasp) he’s tripled his surface to 2”x8”. It’s definitely a giggle to talk about an artist’s working in triple size, large format at 16 square inches, but there it is.

These landscapes require close attention. There’s much to see, still painted with the smallest possible brushes. The detail is astonishing, whether it’s snowy mountains, seascape, desert or clouded sky. The signature Cope detail is there too: Rings in the sky or there shadows on the ground – although I would swear that one painting was without a ring.

From the comments I overheard on opening night, Steve’s work is highly appreciated. I can understand why – and I’m delighted for Steve. He’s a talented artist, a lovely man, and deserves great success.

A short while ago, I reread an old piece of art criticism which said that women shouldn’t be allowed to paint (professionally) because all they turn out are sentimental paintings of children. I wish that critic was still alive to see

Steve Cope - Portage Glacier, Alaska

’s work.

Greta lives somewhere between abstraction, concept and realism. She has different bodies of work in these places.

Her abstract work is an internalization of something she feels about something she sees. It’s moody, haunting and both emotionally and visually stunning – and you want to live in that place. Ergo, you want to live with that painting, whether it’s a large single panel, a triptych, an unusual horizontal diptych or one of the small paintings. Her palette can be warm, driven by coppers and reds, or cool, immersed in greys, browns and blues. In either case, the paintings draw you into a world of smoke, shadows and rolling clouds. I covet them all.

In sharp contrast are Greta’s small drawings of bats and birds, done in powdered graphite on paper. These are realistic impressions, reflections of these creatures. You will never like a bat as well as you like Greta’s drawing of a bat.

The show is open through March 30.  Gerald Peters Gallery is at 24 E 78 Street, NYC.

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Joshua Liner Gallery – Resolve Exhibition Curated by Artist Tony Curanaj

February 3, 2012

There is an amazing group show at the Joshua Liner Gallery at 548 W 28 St., NYC. Artist and curator Tony Curanaj has assembled a group of 25 painters, sculptors and photographers. Some are well known, such as Kim Coogan and Jeff Hayman, others are not but likely will be.

The common theme is a grounding in realism and realistic training. To be included in this show, the artists’ work was required to be in the non-abstract tradition. Yes, painters and sculptors do need to know how to draw as the basis for executing their vision. This is not to say that these artists execute in the same style as their techniques range from ultra-realistic to neo-impressionist among the painters, from whimsical to realistic in sculpture, and, in photography, purely painterly.

Unique in recent shows, there are no weak pieces. Some may be disturbing, such as the butchered cow’s head, that one can’t imagine living with but that is still excellently rendered or Jeff Hayman’s photos of human skulls (living with bones might be a problem for some, including me). Other than the cow’s head, every piece is something that speaks to an individual, that they can buy and live with. I can see these pieces in museum collections but not as corporate art.

Highlights:

Jacob Collins – Interior III – a wonderfully moody oil of a painting filled interior, beautifully dreamed, hazily textured and lovingly rendered

Kim Coogan – American Dream – another of his beautiful urban oil paintings capturing a bit of a city at night

Tony Curanaj – Perched – the most beautiful little blue bird, oil on panel. He’s so warmly executed in ultra-realistic style that you expect him to fly onto your finger.

Jacob Pfeiffer – Nesting – a whimsical and amusing red origami bird brooding quite a collection of eggs presented via oil on panel.

Travis Schlaht – Anticipation – the baby canary learning to fly is an utterly entrancing oil on canvas

Jefferson Hayman – Torn Painting- it’s hard to believe this is a photograph, even though the subject is an old master ripped by a fork lift. You can almost see the brushstrokes and feel the despair of the museum curator.

Christopher Gallego – Studio Interior –you can feel the empty room with its texture and detail awaiting both the housepainter and artist with his canvas and oils.

This exhibition is open through February 25. I highly recommend it and am delighted to discover another group of artists to follow.  Wish I could have included more pictures.

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Group Show – New & Established Artists at Skylight Gallery

February 2, 2012

Nanoscape

The January show is Carla Goldberg’s window for presenting artists who aren’t part of her regular stable. The constraint this year is that each piece had to be less than 30” and ach artist was restricted to two pieces.

The best of the best:

Carol Flaitz – Carol is an experienced and well known artist who exhibits regularly overseas and upstate, About a year ago, Carol started working with encaustic. Challenged by the medium, her work is different from other encaustic paintings. Principally, she deliberately uses the wax medium to create seemingly flat surfaces which are actually three-dimensional.

Carol’s work is inspired by very serious computer research but could equally well be grounded in astrophysical or submarine science. In her piece, Nanoscape, she has constructed a world of texture and color with life force. You can imagine the structures flowing and erupting from an underground source. This is a powerful piece which becomes more enticing as you study it – structure, color, flow, texture.

Nanoscape II is cooler and more contained. Instead of bursting forth, it’s about striation and leveling, very fissile and simultaneously watery. Again, an exciting painting grounded in opposites.

Carla Goldberg – Yes, herself. Carla presented earlier pieces which show how she developed her current style. These two pieces used canvas as the base for the paint, upon which she poured resin and added fibers. I still prefer the newer work but it’s most interesting to see how an artist develops.

Carla’s newer work is purely abstract but maintains her interest in water, texture and color through water. She has distilled her interests to their essence. In these older paintings, the same ideas are present but require a more physical manifestation.

Once again, being only able to post one image, I’ve chosen Nanoscape.

No rude comments about the rest but they weren’t up to the levels set by Carol and Carla. If you ask nicely, I’ll tell you the worst.

The show is up through Feb. 18. Skylight Gallery is located at 538 W 29 St., NYC.