Archive for September, 2012


German spider projections

Wish I’d thought of this.

Waking dreams

Hydra – Azur, 15 x 15 x 3,  sculpting epoxy, tacks, nails, washers, acrylic, wood and canvas

When you think of Hawaii, the first thing that comes to mind probably wouldn’t be Pulse, the new solo show of abstract constructions by Carol Brookes on view now at Viridian Artists. Yet that tropical island is where some of the most compelling pieces in this show, the Pulse Hydra group, originated. Her encounter with that lush yet volcanic landscape is what infused itself into her materials when she went back to work in her Chicago studio. The results are startlingly organic, full of shapes that evoke plant and animal forms, sometimes lips, eyelids, and labia. The Pulse Hydra pieces are wildly colorful, MORE

The Black Dress

Vernita N’Cognita’s The Black Dress at Soho20

Vernita N’Cognita offered a cool and subtle performance last week, The Black Dress, at Soho20, on 27th St., a few floors down from Viridian Artists, where she presides as director. It was a departure for her, the work of a troupe, rather than a solo act, following on her successful partnership with another artist in Germany this summer for Trail of Sighs and Whispers. This time it was a simple and beautiful meditation on what is less an article of clothing and more a sort of sartorial best friend: the little black dress. (Guys have got the black t-shirt, so we kind of understand, but it isn’t the same.) The black dress is the ultimate way to both disguise and reveal the female form, something that gets called upon as a woman’s go-to apparel for a variety of situations, great and small, from cocktail parties to funerals. N’Cognita teamed up with DeeDee Maguire, Veronica Pena, Amanda Flowers, and Tania Sen for a performance backed by music from Charles Ditto—with a perfect, impromptu and More

Endless labor, sometimes a sale

John Lloyd putting up his new show

The better I get to know John Lloyd, the more I admire him. (True of his wife, Jane Talcott, as well, but John’s the one who keeps putting his work up in small solo shows non-stop, anywhere he can find space.) Last weekend, when I drove into the city, he’d recently taken down his work at Salon d’Art and was putting it up at a workspace in Tarrytown called W@tercooler. So on my drive into Manhattan last week, I detoured up across the Tappen Zee and into Tarrytown, which turned out to be a beautiful little village tucked into the hills just east of the Hudson River. I felt as if I were in Vermont, with school children wandering along the main drag and cars stopping for any pedestrian who wandered across Broadway, which was more or less the northern extension of the same thoroughfare that runs through Times Square.


Quote of the day

“. . . there are shows so imbecilic that they cry out for some kind of intervention. Intentionally or not, they exist as affronts to the artistic community through self-seeking sensationalism or sheer empty-headedness, and play into the hands of those in the wider culture who would marginalize boundary-pushing visual expression even further than it already is.”

Nicely put about lousy art. Big problem though. Boundaries? There is no crying in baseball, and there are no boundaries in art. It’s all been done. All frontiers have been opened. Everything is permitted. There is no art God. When are people going to catch up to this, finally? It’s been this way for half a century now. That’s the problem. There’s nowhere else to go. Yet we keep going. Reality: There’s nowhere to go. Necessity: I must go! Oh Godot, as a friend of mine likes to sigh. As an artist, the only boundaries I recognize are graphite lines, and I try not to violate them.

Two-artist show

. . . and again.

New Dams in Winter, detail, Neil Welliver, 1982

I know it’s bullshit to do two Art I Loves in a row, but I’m busy painting for a show in October, so bite me.

Sorry about that. I’m under pressure. Ok, so instead of just posting an image, I’ll let Neil Welliver say some things I’ve never forgotten since I first read them, things I think about often when I paint, especially when I’m “going back over” which Welliver said he never did. I usually think of Welliver when the work I’m doing isn’t remotely like Welliver’s.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from an interview in a book published 25 years ago, Realists at Work, by John Arthur, (Watson-Guptil Publications) which I bought probably 20 years ago. It’s fun listening to Welliver sound as if he’s patronizing Fairfield Porter, who seems more and more influential a quarter century hence, especially in a lot of work I’ve seen the past few years in New York City. Welliver and Porter’s work both seem to spring from similar imperatives about simplicity and transparency of execution, paint as an end in itself rather than just a means, and the abstract qualities of representational images. His sense of color is different from Porter’s, not nearly as warm nor as varied, but you still have the sense that both artists wanted you to see the paint on its own terms, paint as what it is you’re getting, even as you see through it into the scene. Both thought of themselves as painting the light between objects, light as a field of energy, rather than representing a set of objects. Some of the Q/A:

When Porter did a really top-notch painting, he was as good as one can get . .

I think that the Fairfield Porter paintings that are good are very, very good American paintings. God knows that they can never be dismissed. I can’t imagine that. But whether Fairfield’s a major painter or MORE

Art I love

A recent painting from Kurt Ketchum.

It beats saving civilization . . .

Churchill at his easel


”Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.” – Winston Churchill

From In between penning epic one-liners, drinking, and saving western civilization, Winston Churchill picked up oil painting as a hobby. Inspired by the work of John Singer Sargent and Walter Sickert, Churchill managed to finish over 500 paintings, when World Wars weren’t getting in the way. He focused on calm landscapes — relaxing fare to keep his mind off of military failures in his past and the Panzer battalions amassing on the other side of the English Channel.

His aim was contentment, not critical acclaim. He said ”Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.”

Though he didn’t pick up a paintbrush until his 40th birthday, by the end of his life Churchill was a knight, a Nobel Laureate, but also had his paintings honored by the Royal Society of the Art under the pseudonym “Mr. Winter.” Today his paintings are collected and sold at auction where one recently sold for over a million dollars.

(Click on the image of Churchill for a contrary opinion about the happiness of painters.)

Candid camera

Chuck and Andy

“Photographer Andy Freeberg as been fascinated with the gallery and museum worlds for a long time and often turns his camera on the dealers, gallery patrons, artists, museum guards, and their interplay with the works of art themselves. His project Guardians, about the women that guard the art in Russian museums, won Photolucida’s Critical Mass book award and was published in 2010. One of my favorite series, Sentry, takes a look at galleristas that stand guard at the reception desks in the world of Chelsea galleries in NYC.”


Homestuck strikes gold

Homestuck, a “a book/webcomic/Flash animation/videogame hybrid”

When I heard that a webcomic called Homestuck had raised three quarters of a million dollars on Kickstarter within 24 hours for a videogame version, I set out to research what it was. Three hours later, I was not much closer to understanding it.

Homestuck, and the rabid fandom of its millions of readers, is difficult to explain. Entire blogs have been started just to answer the question, “What is Homestuck?”

Here’s the best I can do: It’s a book/webcomic/Flash animation/videogame hybrid, all created by Andrew Hussie. When Hussie revealed a Kickstarter campaign to fund creation of a Homestuck adventure game on Tuesday, his fans helped him meet his $700,000 goal within just one day. He plans to release the game in 2014.

Brooklyn Heights colorist

John Lloyd, Classic Brooklyn Townhouse, 2011

New York from Brooklyn to the High Line, Salon d’Art, until Oct. 2.


History’s over

From an essay in a forthcoming book of Martinez drawings:

Martinez isn’t afraid to make abstract expressionist paintings or cubist paintings or whatever. Movements and styles don’t have a sell by date. As long as artists can genuinely expand on a movement (I think groove is actually a better word) its completely valid. Dada and surrealism are as relevant today as ever, whatever they’re called. Eddie Martinez isn’t snowed by the notion of progress in art, as 99% of artists are. What makes his art really modern or contemporary is that it’s a powerful reflection of this moment, it vibrates with the rhythm of our microsecond saturated, overdubbed, post-logical era. This is an era that has outlasted art movements and hidden beauty away where the salesmen can’t readily find it. This is a moment where every artist is fighting a sketchbook war, informed and sustained by secret muses,against historians wired into suicide vests working for international banks. The artists might be making money, but they know it’s money with secret codes set to go off when least expected.

Glenn O’Brien

Best freelance contract in the history of the world

“Nobody cares about art”

David Cowan, beta version, with Matt Dorsey, Wolverine wannabe, far right

David Cowan paid a visit to Casa Dorsey a few days ago, since we missed him when we were doing our one annual vacation last month in Southern California where our son and daughter both work now. I’ve known David since he was about knee-high, one of my son’s lifelong friends who has moved to L.A. to seek his fortunes as a screenwriter. He was back in Rochester visiting family and friends and stopped in to catch up. He’s bearded now, wears cool shoes, and comes up with about 250 new ideas for movies in the course of a week. Talk to him for MORE

Anthem for artists


The progress of love

The Turning Season, handmade, clothbound chapbook at Viridian Artists

Over the past month I’ve become obsessed with creating a set of handmade books. I’ve never done this before. I essentially took lessons from the wealth of information available on the web, including many videos, so whatever craftsmanship I’ve achieved has been earned through many setbacks, mistake, do-overs, workarounds, and overall general trial-and-error. In the end, as of today, my efforts have resulted five sets of two-volume paperback chapbooks to show for my effort, and five clothbound, hardback single-signature chapbooks—a limited first edition. It’s been a long journey, but far more gratifying than I suspected it would be. In an age when the rate of e-book rentals at public library is skyrocketing, I like sinking into the long, slow, deliberate building of a physical book with an inkjet printer, printmaking paper, thread, binder’s board, bone folders, awls, glue and cloth, in a way that can’t possibly make me the kind of money that would justify the amount of time and, yes, cash, I’ve invested in the process. It’s been a labor of deep love, on a book that expresses some of my most fundamental values, and after working so many years on a story that has yet to find its conclusive form, it’s gratifying to see this small, elliptical child of that larger, difficult parent finally become something I can hold in my hands. When I see the final book, I feel: This is me. As much as anything I’ve created in my life, this is me. This is what I wanted these pictures and haiku poems to be when I first created them a number of years ago.

I backed into these weeks of consuming passion as a response to the theme of the next group show at Viridian Artists thanks to Vernita N’Cognita: Yin and Yang, a Fusion of Opposites. The show highlights the way member artists have drawn from Eastern traditions for inspiration or technique or a sense of purpose in their work. A few days after I heard about the theme of the show, it occurred to me to resurrect this series of drawings and poems I created as an appendix for a novel I wrote over the past decade but have never published, nor satisfactorily finished. Viking/Penguin published my first novel in the late 90s and since then I’ve either been working on this one—in between periods of writer’s block that many people call making a living. The novel is called The Turning Season. So is the book I’ve just designed, printed, and bound by hand. (I would have made the paper as well, if I’d had the time—and, well, if I’d ever actually made my own paper. Maybe that can wait for a second edition . . .)

The ten drawings I did for the novel were created as the work of two fictional characters in the novel: Rob Hapworth and Jill Pickett. They meet on vacation, they are attracted to one another, but they pull apart out of an obligation to people they already love, and yet they sublimate their affection for one another through a set of poems and drawings: Rob writes the poems and Jill does the drawings to match them. In the process, she delves deeply into a number of traditions and imaginative works, from the Buddhist Ox-Herding Songs to the central structure of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth to The Wasteland as well as Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy. In other words she turns a set of simple haiku poems that chart the pull and push of her relationship with Rob into a reworking of an ancient mythic structure she detects at the heart of all these other sources: a universal spiritual journey toward fulfillment through loss. I spent more than a year writing the poems and taking the photographs to use as the basis for pastel drawings on watercolor paper, to accompany the poems. In other words, I did what Jill ostensibly does in the story. And then, when I put the novel aside, I hung the pictures on my wall and moved on to other things for the past few years. Until now.

Now I’m thinking I need to return to my manuscript and finally finish the novel.