If I Were in San Francisco . . .

. . . this is the show I would go to see: Pip Culbert's deconstructed quilts and garments at Fouladi Projects, up through tomorrow. I first saw Culbert's work at the gallery's room at Aqua Art in Miami this past December. She was showing deconstructed shirts, and I was taken with both the concept and precision of the work.

Quilt 1, cotton and pins
Images and info from the gallery's website
Quilt, Gold, cotton and pins

Quilt, blue and white
Detail above; full view below


Did You Get the Chain Letter, Too?

About three weeks ago, I received an email from a Boston-based artist inviting me to participate in a "Chain Letter" group show at a Boston gallery. I was also asked to invite 10 artists I admire. They, in turn, would each ask 10 artist they admire. Here's the letter:

 "Chain Letter" is a global group show wherein 10 artists have been invited  to participate. Those 10 then invite 10 artists that they admire. Those 10 invite 10 more and so on. This cycle continues for 30 days.  The result is an exponentially massive, artist-curated group show based  entirely on admiration. We hope every admired artist on the planet will be  included in "Chain Letter" this summer.

You can see where this is going. Image from the Internet

Sounds crazy but interesting. Crazy because an exponential number of artists will be involved. Interesting because I'm getting emails not just from Boston artists but from my New York peeps inviting me to participate--in a Boston show. I've posted the (sketchy) details below, leaving out the specifics because it is a chain letter, and the invitation is to pass in that way rather than on this blog:

1.The Protocol: Forward this invite to 10 artists you admire. Remember to  change the names (in red) at the top.
2.Install and Opening: Works should be at the gallery on July 13th. The opening reception is on Saturday, July 16th from 5 to 8. Every participating venue  around the world will have their opening on the same day as ours.
3.The De-install: All works will be returned or picked up.
*Please do not email your curator or venue. Everything you need to know is  here. Trust in the chain letter. Viva simplicity. Finally, if one of your ten artists cannot participate, go ahead and invite another!
Everyone has the same question: How can one gallery hold what is likely to be about 10,000 pieces of art?

Actually they have other questions, too: How long will the show run? How can so many pieces of art be registered and handled properly? Is there insurance? Is there a postcard announcement? Since the invitation comes with the request to "not email your curator or venue," I'm smelling someone's big, messy, conceptual art project. Still, I know the Boston dealer to be an honorable guy whose program consistently pushes the envelope. And, wow, what a great concept for a big, messy show!

To the artist who invited me, the Boston dealer confirms that the show is legit but offers no details. Then, breaking with the outlined protocol, I forward to him an email--see below in small type--that has been forward to me by a friend to whom it had been forwarded from the participating gallery in Los Angeles. (Don't you love it? A chain letter about a chain letter.) He responds with a, "Sounds good, Joanne."  The reporter in me has more questions, but the artist is me is going with the flow.

Here's what I forwarded (I've left off the parts specific to the Los Angeles Gallery):

3. There are no size restrictions. Bring everything you need to support your piece. No assistance is guaranteed.
4.  The invitation can be sent out up to the date of installation technically. 30 days is the loose structure, but everyone interested who wants to show just has to have there work there and installed by [the L.A. date].
5.  If you cannot be there to install your own work, please make arrangements with a friend or the person who invited you, to drop off your work for you. The gallery will not be responsible for returning or sending works back.
6. If you get invited multiple times accept them both, keep inviting, let the chain weave and weave and weave and grow!
7. No hanging wall pieces. Leaning works will find a home. Hanging pieces are fine, but again no assistance in install is guaranteed.
8. Chain Letter is not reaching out or contacting people other than the original invites and what the gallery websites can provide. Its just too big to reach everyone1
9. We'd prefer no pedestals. You can bring them, but we can't guarantee the space for them or ideal installation scenarios. It will be very, very cozy!
10. No matter where you are, invite who you admire and encourage them to find the nearest location to get there work to and up.
11. The works will be labeled with your names. If someone inquires about purchasing your work, that will be dealt with on individual basis.  No price list will be posted. Consignment details will vary by location. You can find out about consignment forms on day of install.
12. This email can only answer general questions and details relating to Los Angeles only. Deinstall dates will have to be discovered by the venue at your opening.
13. The works will be a complete surprise the day of installation!
14. One piece per artist per location please. If you got invited to 2 different cities, then I suppose show in both! One work per city please.
15. You don't have to have 10 artists confirm to participate.
16. We can't advise you which venue to show at if you are invited in multiple cities, but the galleries are NOT PAYING for anything. But if it were me I'd go with simplicity and show up at the closest venue.
17. Chain Letter is very real and artist driven!
So, here's what I'm going to do: Since I'm in Massachusetts for the summer, I'm going to drive into Boston on the appointed day (with a small painting to drop off, just in case) and report on what I see taking place. And I'm going to go to return for the opening to see how it all turns out.

Have you been invited? What city? Do you have any information to share?

Update  B.R., an artist from Boston, offers this first-hand report and observation: We went into the gallery and asked the assistant a few questions. We were told that it was not real organized, but was legit. The show is to be "installed” in the lower (basement?) area. I can imagine that there will be thousands of works . . . a waiting line at the gallery door to drop off and [to enter the ] reception.  I agree that this is the piece--happening now, all over—and will continue into a ‘chaos happening’ at show time. . . . The gallery owner is someone whom I greatly respect and who is well respected for his cutting-edge, conceptual exhibitions.


Marketing Mondays: Chihuly, Inc.

Dale Chihuly sculptures in the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, above, and the New York Botanical Garden

“If we measure an artist's importance by the number of museum exhibitions, books, articles and television appearances he has, Seattle glass guru Dale Chihuly is right up there with the greats.

“His work is in the collection of most every U.S. art museum you can think of, as well as many abroad. Museum exhibitions of his work circulate continually and stacks of hefty coffee-table books praise his talents. And who hasn't seen one of those often-aired documentaries about him on PBS?

“But what many don't know is that Chihuly — a Northwest icon who has built a multimillion-dollar business — generates the bulk of that exposure himself.
“All that publicity has inflated the public notion of Chihuly's status in the art world.”

Thus opens the Inside The Glass Empire, the 3000-plus-word article on Chihuly, by Sheila Farr and Susan Kelleher for The Seattle Times, published April 29, 2010.

In essence Dale Chihuly is Marketing Mondays on steroids. Indeed, his steroids are on steroids, which in turn are pumped up by, well, steroids. He’s doing what thousands of artists do, but doing it like all of them at once. Imagine having 150 people working for you, so that the more they make, the bigger you get. He’s doing everything we learned to be afraid of in art school. He’s been called a “glasshole,” with a business model likened to Thomas Kincade’s (though in museum shops rather than malls). And yet, he’s the one with the brand and the bucks. And he’s employing artists, craftspeople, factory workers, photographers, photo archivers, a studio manager, accountants and independent contractors, a boon to creative-economy folks who might otherwise be unemployed in these difficult economic times.

"No one's ever signed my name for anything that I've made, including the editions, including the prints, the glass, the drawings," says glassblower Dale Chihuly.  But that doesn’t mean he actually, made the pieces. “"The last time I blew glass was a couple years ago," he said. "I just don't do it."
I love the idea of artists taking control of their careers. In fact, I'm kind of in awe at what Chihuly has been able to do. Not that I would want that for myselfI like making art far more than doing the business of artbut it is pretty amazing, even if undertones of distasteful and overtones of skeevy are part of the Chihuly scent that reaches my nostrils. His approach, like that of Murakami, Koons and Kostabi, is more suited for mass productionwhich, in fact, it isthan for the magical thing that happens when the electrical impulses of firing neurons work their way out of your body and into whatever unique object they will themselves to be. 

Unlike Kincade's work, Chihuly's can be quite beautiful. Do we applaud this artist, a one-time leader of the studio glass movement, for his artistic vision? Or for his career chutzpah? Do we secretly wish we had a tiny fraction of his business savvy or do we disdain him for "selling out"? Is his story a cautionary tale of becoming "Art, Inc." or a model of how to make it in the art world?

Today’s MM assignment: Read the above-noted article on him in the Seattle Times and then meet me back here so that we can discuss. 


Louise Bourgeois: Fabric Works at Cheim & Read

“I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole.”

Detail of a work shown in its entirety below
Louise Bourgeois's final works, created between 2002 and 2010, the year she died, were made with needle and thread, the same materials she had used as a child in her parent's tapestry restoration business.  These "drawings," as she called them, are thus a bookend to a career that spanned almost eight decades. The materials come literally from the fabric of her life: domestic textiles, her husband's clothing and her own. The totemic energy imbued in these works is palpable, and the optical quality of some of the pieced work adds an additional layer of vibrational resonance.

Fabric Works, at Cheim & Read on 25th Street through the end of the week, hits so many targets--drawing, painting, sculpture, surrealism, beauty, physicality, geometry, reappropriation, quilting, autobiography, talismanic reconfiguration, each part of the legacy of this great artist--that whatever your interest, you'll not be disappointed. Go! A press release tells us that the show represents a selection  of work curated by Germano Celant for the Fondazione Vedova in Venice last year.

If you can't get to see this show, a full catalog published by Skira is available. The gallery's website features installation views and a checklist with good indivitual images, a boon since it was difficult to shoot through the glazing of the framed works. (I wrote earlier about Bourgeois's fabric work, Ode a l'Oubli at MoMA, and showed some good pics from her 2008 retrospective at the Guggenheim. ) 

Fabric Works consisted of what seemed to be three related shows. In the small front room was a collection of assemblages, like the one below, which read as haiku. The work is from a 2009 suite of 16 small mixed-media works, Eugenie Grandet, each 11.25 x 8.5 inches


In the large gallery, we begin a visal sweep from left to right. I couldn't shoot the works at left--the skylight created too much reflection on the glass--so I pulled the image below from the Cheim & Read website
The Waiting Hours, fabric, suite of 12, each app. 15 x 12.25 inches. With its pretty blues and aquatic theme, this work is, to me, the least "Bourgeoisian" (though the vertiginous panel in the middle row, second from  left, suggests a dangerous list, something the artist never shied away from in her work)

I love this installation of 10 works on the back wall, each a spiral or weblike composion. Here is where the works, with their hand stitching visible, are most linear and drawing-like while at the same time extending a direct line to quilts

Above: Untitled, 2005, fabric, 24 x 31 inches

Below: Untitled, 2006, fabric collage and in, app. 15 inches

Swinging around  to the right (shot from the entry to the gallery), 12 framed collages that comprise the fabric book, Dawn. I shot two pieces, below, and then included an image of the full work from the gallery's website

From the Cheim & Read website, a view of the book, Dawn.

Now we walk into the small back gallery. On the right is the eye dazzler you see below, and around the corner is a vitrine that you will see when you scroll down:

Untitled, 2010
 Anthropomorphic, biographic, enigmatic, metaphoric, this installation appear to allude to her childhood (the threads), her work as a sculptor (the biomorphic form) and--what?--femaleness, motherhood? Those stuffed berets read as breasts, like those on the Diana of Ephesus 

I particularly like this image, since you see one wall work through the vitrine and another reflected in its glass, as well as the sculpture before you, also reflected in the glass. What better metaphor for Bourgeois:  an artist whose legacy will extend long into the future


Marketing Mondays: Cloud Nine to Square One

Posted: An Early Summer Roundup
Posted: Louise Bourgeois's Fabric Works 
You did your homework and (after a few/some/many rejections) a gallery has expressed interest in your work. You're invited into a group show. The turnout is great. Sales are made. Over the ensuing months, you are invited to join the gallery as a represented artist. Conversation begins for a solo show.
You're on Cloud Nine!
Then, seemingly out of the blue, you get the dreaded email: “The gallery is closing. Please come and pick up your work.”

It happens more often than you think. As rents rise and the cost of doing business climbs (galleries may pay $10,000 or significantly more for a ground-floor space, and not just in New York City), some dealers may decide to close their doors, opting for private dealing or consulting. Others, having been in the business for many years or feeling particularly burned out, may opt out entirely while they still have some savings left.

It’s a long, hard fall from Cloud Nine to Square One
Best-case scenarios
. The dealer may not know what the next step is, but when the dust settles you may be invited to show in a new location—or be one of the artists the dealer represents privately
. The more responsible dealers who know they’re closing for good may try to place some of their artists with other dealers. It does happen
. If you have been actively visiting galleries, networking, making studio visits, being visible outside the studio, the shock of being suddenly gallery-less will be mitigated by people who know you and your work. You find yourself invited to participate in group show or two
. You never know who has seen your work, noted your name, Googled you and visited your website. Then (seemingly) out of the blue, a request for a studio visit or an invitation to show arrives 

Worst-case scenario: You have to start all over again. .
Rethinking the "worst case":
. You’ve got that recent exhibition on your resume and possibly some new collectors. These are the bonafides that help you rebound into another gallery
.  Whether you realize it or not, you’ve learned a lot about working with galleries: making contact, projecting confidence, following up

. Keep your collectors on your mailing list. Let them know of exhibitions you're in, projects you're involved with
. Show in good juried shows as much as you feel is professionally acceptable
. Participate in a good DIY show if the opportunity arises; better still, organize one
. You may not want to go back to the conventional open studio events, but consider a studio evening with white wine and light snacks for your collectors, supporters, local arts writers, and, yes, bloggers--folks who are in a position to help you connect the dots. They know why you've invited them. Keep the bubbly flowing and be charming. And, of course, make sure your most fabulous new work is on the wall and well lit. This is not a party for your hungry artist friends, but you might ask a few of your most well-connected colleagues to attend. (You'll do the same for them if the time comes)
. Create a catalog of your work. Update your website. Something tangible, or clickable, will help dealers and curators connect with what you do
. Network with other artists. You will learn of, or be recommended to, group shows that keep you visible
. Sometimes gallery assistants decide to strike out on their own, inviting a few of the original gallery artists with them. It’s a chance, but perhaps one you wish to take
. You may decide that with the savvy use of online media you can manage your career on you own
Have you been with a gallery that closed? What did you do? Where did you land?

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Images via the Internet


An Early Summer Roundup

If you’ve wondered why I’ve been posting only on Mondays for the past several weeks, it’s because during that period I’ve been consumed with the annual encaustic painting conference I founded and run, now happily in co-production with Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill on Cape Cod. Conference 5, held in its new home at the Provincetown Inn, was a huge, honking success. (Pause to smile and exhale.)  Some 250 conferees came from 38 states and five countries; there were 28 talks and demos, several panel discussions, a hotel fair at the Inn by and for the conferees, five gallery shows in town, half a dozen articles in local and regional publicatons, and five days of post-conference workshops at Castle Hill. (The tip of the Cape has pretty much become the Vatican of Wax. I'll have some links soon.)

Now I get back to my regularly scheduled life. Which brings me to the point of this post: While I am late with everything, I do have a lot to show you. Here’s a peek at what’s on the roster for the next few weeks, not necessarily in this order:

Louise Bourgeois, The Fabric Works, at Cheim & Read, Chelsea, through June 25

Lynda Benglis at the New Museum, Lower East Side, over today

Four Sculptors at Lesley Heller Workspace: Benglis, Castoro, Rydingsvard, Winsor, through June 25

Jasper Johns at Matthew Marks, Chelsea, through July 1

Don Voisine at  McKenzie Fine Art, Chelsea, has ended

Stephen Westfall at Lennon Weinberg, Chelsea, has ended--but the wall painting, visible above, remains up for Ghost in the Machine, curated by Westfall, which opens June 23 and runs through August 19

Frank Badur, Mostly Red, at Thatcher Projects, Chelsea, through June 25

Structured Color at D. Wigmore Fire Art, Fifth near 57th Street, has ended--but Pioneers of American Abstraction is up now

Susan Still Scott at Heskin Gallery, upper Chelsea, has ended

Wall Paintings at The Painting Center, curated by Stephen Maine, has ended

Lisa Hoke at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, Chelsea, has ended

What else is on my summer platter? I will get back to Provincetown for some non-conference R&R, spend time in the studio making work on paper (you know I'll show it to you) and maybe even drive up to Montreal, stopping in Hudson along the way.

Stay tuned .


Marketing Mondays: Gallery Red Flags

Warning: If you see too many of these in your dealings with a gallery, you may get burned
(Image from the internet)

Throughout history the red flag has been used as a warning. In the Middle ages it signified a fight to the death, while in the 18th Century here and in Europe, it signified revolt (particularly effective when soaked in blood). Today the National Weather service employs the red-flag warning as an alert to the hot, dry and windy conditions that can start and fan a conflagration. Colloquially, of course, it’s a metaphor for caution.

Who among us in the art community has not been confronted with the metaphorical red flag? I can’t speak for dealers and curators, but as an artist I have seen an abundance of them: the dealer who “forgets” to tell me a work has been sold, who prints or posts images with incorrect information; who damages work and then shrugs it off with an, “I know you can fix it”—even when I can’t.

Contrast that irresponsibility with the dealer who says, “You've already waited too long for payment. I'll write you a check now for the full amount and secure payment at my end from the collector.”  Or the dealer who recently emailed to say, “Just want to let you know that the gallery is closing in this location. I’ll have more information later but right now my priority is returning all the work to the artists.” These are the dealers you hold dear.

My friend Jhina Alvarado, a San Francisco painter, has seen an abundance of red flags lately. In When It's Time to Jump Ship, a recent post on her Rising Artist blog, she talked about the flags waving so madly that she finally had to leave the gallery: the bounced check, the cancelled opening, the 30% discount (!) and more.

There are other red flags. Have you seen any of these?
. Sloppy bookkeeping
. Unreturned emails
. Unreturned phone calls
. The dealer who treats clients to lavish dinners but nickels and dimes the artists
. Who demands “exclusivity” but whose client list, editorial connections and sales are sparse
. Who expects you to sign an onerous contract (one that stacks the terms in the gallery's favor, making you feel like the janitor rather than an equal half of the business arrangement)
. Who wants only “new work” and then hoards what you provide until it’s “too old to sell”
. Who turns down any and all requests with, “It’s gallery policy.” What policy?
. Who asks you repeatedly for the information—bio, resume, statement, price list—that you have already sent. Twice
. Who needs everything at the last minute, which means you’re left scrambling to meet the last Fed Ex pickup of the day and then send it priority overnight. (Ask for the gallery Fed Ex number so that you don't get stuck with the bill for their disorganization, since you would have sent it via the far-cheaper three-day service)
. And, who tells you, all together now: The check is in the mail

There is recourse to some of this
. Pull out of the gallery. It’s rarely easy leave representation, especially if it’s your only gallery, but you need to pay attention to the red flags
. Drive to the gallery, with packing materials if necessary, to retrieve your work. Bring your signed inventory list (make sure you get one of those; generate it yourself if you must)
. If you can’t retrieve work or money that’s due you, contact your state's attorney general. Part of what they do is help citizens with business and consumer issues
. Contact Volunteer Lawyer for the Arts. Usually a consult is free. Then if you and an attorney decide to work together, ask for a reduced rate. Or see if the attorney would be open to a trade of art for service
. Find out if this gallery is a member of any art dealer's association, or a local business organization. In a brief, clear letter, let those groups know of the way you were treated. Any ethical institution will want to know if its members are behaving unethically or illegally
. Contact other artists in the gallery. If they have experienced something similar, perhaps you can hire an attorney together and work together

Better still, look for those red flags before you get involved with the gallery
. No website? Red flag
. Out of date website? Red flag
. Is the contract onerous? Does the dealer expect you to agree to terms like no gallery insurance and no responsiblity for damage to artwork while it's in the gallery's possession? Red flag
. Does the gallery expect you to pay shipping both ways? Does it expect to operate with no limits on the discount it will extend to a collector? Does it expect you to relinquish your mailing list to them? Red flag
. When you visit the gallery, have you seen it left too often in the hands of the assistant or secretary? Red flag. (It is possible that your dealer is wheeling and dealing via cell phone and cloud computing while on the beach in Tahiti. Possible, not likely)
. Has the gallery moved around a lot? Reddish flag. Galleries do move, but moving too often suggests that rent hasn’t been paid and the dealer is trying to stay one step ahead of the old landlord
. Inquire discretely of one or two of the gallery artists what their experience has been. Promise confidentiality. And then stick to that promise. Are you hearing about late payments or checks in the mail that never arrive? Red flag. Are you hearing of this situation from many or most of the gallery's artists? Run!
. Listen to the conversation at openings. Much of what you hear will be gossip, but there may be nuggets of useful information as well, particularly if there is a pattern to the stories from different people over time

Now, over to you: Tell us about the red flags in your experience. And what you’ve done about them.

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Marketing Mondays: Rethinking the Artist’s Statement

Here’s what I hate about artists’ statements: On an 11 x 8½  sheet of paper, the artist writes “Artist Statement” at the top and sticks a couple of short paragraphs of often impenetrable prose toward the top of the page. When you're confronted with it as a reader, what do you typically do?  Read the first few lines, skim to the bottom, and then put it down, right? Snore.

This is how statements have “always been done” but I think there’s plenty wrong with the format


Speaking as the editor I was for 20 years, I think there’s a better way to do it. Take, for example, a front of-the-book article in a magazine, typically a one-pager. What gets you to read it?  Your eye goes to the title and subtitle, rests on a picture and skims the caption, and then may fall on a call out or pull quote, elements designed to synopsize the text. So before you actually read the text of the article, you have gotten a sense of the story.

Considering the way we read the printed page as just described, or surf the net with a series mouse clicks and flashing images, who in the world is going to give your statement the three or so minutes it takes to plow through a paragraph that may or may not even be plowable?

Though I'm not suggesting you include a pull quote, I think you can take a cue from the magazine page and use the real estate of that 11 by 8½  page a whole lot better:

Think of your statement as a small editorial feature
(Click both text images to see them larger)

Give Your Artist’s Statement a Title
Everyone knows it's an artist's statement. Why not give it a title instead? The title could be the name of series you’re working on, or a phrase or word to describe the work; it might even be a phrase a critic has used to describe it (make sure you attribute it in the text itself).

Include an Image
If one picture is worth a one thousand words—and never has that been truer than in our insta-culture—then for godsake include one. Pick the best image of your best work, or a studio installation shot, or a gallery installation shot, or even a detail of a work that embodies the elements you talk about in the statement. Pick something to show your reader what you do.

Caption it
It might be as simple as the basic info of title, date, medium, dimensions. If it’s a studio view, note the date of the photograph; if it’s a gallery installation, note the gallery and the city it’s in, exhibition title, and date. If it’s a detail, identify it as such.

The Statement Itself
. Is it written in artspeak? No one is going to understand it. (If you’re problematizing expectations and deconstructing antiaesthetic historical precedents, with or without allusions to formalist thinking, take a look at Carol Diehl’s classic Impenetrable Prose from the Whitney Biennial. She’s commenting on critical writing, but too often artists try to emulate that ridiculous prose in an effort to sound more artlike. The message here: Don’t!)
. Is it too long? No matter how well it’s written, no one is going to read it. Write about your work the way you would verbally describe it to someone. Edit it, of course. Prose-ify it a bit if you wish. But keep it readable and keep it short: What you’re doing, why you’re doing it; and if, applicable, how you’re doing it. Boom, boom, boom.

Provide just enough information that the reader will want to engage with you to know more and to see more. (That’s what made Gypsy Rose Lee so famous.) You want to interest a dealer or curator sufficiently to click onto your website (or better: visit your studio), to inspire a critic to visit your show, to tantalize a collector to imagine what your work would like on her wall. Otherwise, they or any other reader will give your statement a once-over and put it down. 

The Letterhead
At the top of the sheet provide a letterhead—the same one that’s on the first page of your resume, on your price list, and on your correspondence. Your name is on this letterhead, of course, along with your contact info: e address, land line, cell, website, and perhaps your studio address. Create a template from existing fonts in Word and use it for everything you print out. Yes, it’s businesslike; you are a business of one. The people you are dealing with—dealers, museums, consultants, for instance—are also businesses. If you prefer to make your letterhead a “letterfoot,” that’s fine. Just be consistent about it.

When I send a new statement to a gallery I'm working with, I just leave space at the spot, top or bottom, where they put their gallery letterhead/foot.

Related topics: The Elevator Pitch; Resume, CV, Bio

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"Surface Attraction" in Provincetown

If you're in Provincetown this coming week for the Encaustic Conference, or just because it's P-town and you know you want to be there, find your way to the Rice Polak Gallery, 430 Commercial Street, in the East End. I've co-organized a pre-season show, Surface Attraction, with the gallery's owner, Marla Rice, to coincide with the Conference.  While many encaustic-focused exhibitions are opening at galleries in town during the three-day conference, this exhibition has taken a different tack: It's about the appeal of materiality in a range of mediums.

The opening is Friday, June 3, from 7:00-9:00 p.m.  Consider this post a press release, an invitation and a look-see all rolled into one.

Rusty Wolfe, Celebration, lacquer on plexiglass, 48 x 48 inches

Among the many sensuous pleasures of a painting, perhaps none is as heady as the pigmented ooze of paint itself. In Surface Attraction, on view at the Rice Polak Gallery from June 3 to June 12, seven artists working in different mediums exploit the succulent slather, woozy drip, lush patina and translucent richness of their materials. Saturated color ups the ante in this exhibition, while geometric composition, tempers the works with restraint.

 Willie Little, Ray Ban, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 42

Gallery artists Peter Arvidson, Blair Bradshaw, Willie Little and Rusty Wolfe contribute geometric pattern, patination, and the deep space of translucent layers. Arvidson’s succulent grids, created from daubs of color, shimmer like tesserae or pixilated close-ups of Monet’s garden, the orderliness of their composition at thrilling odds with the lusciousness of the oil. Bradshaw’s systematic grids collide with chaotic brush strokes, everything right at the surface, while Wolfe’s ebullient circles and arcs, built up in acrylic paint, layer into a deep space that confounds planarity. Little’s patinated surfaces, achieved through oxidization as much as oil paint, glance at geometry, their organic richness hinting at the narrative subtext of a rural Southern childhood.

Peter Arvidson, Meadows, oil on canvas, 16 x 16 inches

Joanne Mattera, Uttar 295, encaustic on panel, 36 x 36 inches

Joanne Mattera, who organized the exhibition with gallery director Marla Rice, offers small, luminous color fields and a loose-limbed version of the grid in her larger paintings. Lynda Ray contructs luscious zig-zags, plying architectural pattern with a sense of organic growth. Both artists work in encaustic, pigmented wax, as does gallery artist Peter Roux, whose arboreal iconograpy is the most specifically nature related.

Blair Bradshaw, Towers, mixed media, 37 x 44 inches

Lynda Ray, Terreplein, encaustic on panel, 18 x 24 inches

Peter Roux, (title coming), encaustic and oil, 24 x 18 inches 

Encaustic painting has undergone a revival in the past decade. Surface Attraction, timed to take place during the Fifth International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, positions this ancient and once nearly extinct medium squarely within the larger context of contemporary painting—here explored thematically through materiality, geometry and color.

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