More Paintings During Armory Week

Here's another roundup of paintings from Armory Week, which I present without commentary--except to say that I responded to all of them for various reasons: impastoed gesture or dense composition, the geometry of shape within a shaped canvas, or the materiality of the work.

Tomory Dodge at CRG Gallery, New York City; Armory
Installation view below

Two more by Tomory Dodge, all the work oil on canvas

Jackie Saccoccio at Eleven Rivington Gallery, New York City, Volta
(Saccoccio has a solo, which includes this painting, at Eleven Rivington on the Lower East Side, up through April 22.)

Susan Carr at Giampietro Gallery, New Haven; Scope
Closer view, below

Thornton Dial at Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York; Armory Modern
(Dial is in a group show, Materiality, at Allegra La Viola on the LES through April 21.)

Detail below

Ralf Dereich, Chaplini Gallery, Cologne; Volta

Mary Abbott at VVFA Modern and McCormick Gallery, Chicago; Armory Modern
Charles Hinman at D. Wigmore Fine Art, New York City; Armory Modern
Larry Zox and Kenneth Noland at Capstick-Dale Fine Art, New York City; Armory Modern

Imi Knoebel at Galerie Nachst St. Stephen/Rosemarie Schwartzwalder, Vienna; Armory

Xaviera Simmons at Nicole Klagsabrun Gallery, New York City; ADAA

Pascale Marthine Tayou at Gallerie Continue, San Gimignano, Italy; Armory
Detail below (yes, they're pastels--or maybe chalk)


Marketing Mondays: 10 Tips For Writing a Clear Artist Statement

Last year in this column I wrote about a new way of thinking about the artist statement. I talked about keeping it short and avoiding artspeak, but mostly I focused on the presentation of the document. My suggestion was to give it a title, since everyone knows it’s an artist statement, and more importantly, to give it an image. Use the  page. 

What I didn’t do was talk much about the statement itself. I just assumed that after art school everyone has figured out how to write one. But I got a lot of requests to talk about the writing.

This is a recent statement. I'm not just telling you about my work, I'm showing it to you, too
So, OK, let me put my editor’s cap on—I wore one for two decades in my day job—and offer you these 10 tips:

1. Start with good work
That's the basis, because all the explication in the world won't make it better. As a corollary, you also need good images since that’s the way your good work will be seen by dealers and curators until the studio visit or the gallery exhibition.

2. Write about it in plain English, in your own voice
The common wisdom is that your work should speak for itself, but if you want it to be understood on your terms, you have to speak for it. When you aren’t there to speak for it, your statement does. Eventually your dealer will speak on its behalf, or a curator, but even they will be helped by what you have to say about it.

3. Keep it brief, up to three short paragraphs (about 150 words)Some artists have taken an unconventional stance—a poem, a list, an anecdote. Well, OK, there are many ways to convey what you wish to say. However, I’m not a fan of using quotes by other artists, writers or philosophers. Considering how little time a reader will spend with the statement—maybe a minute, but more likely just a few seconds—why have the takeaway be someone else’s words?  (Then there’s the belligerent, “If you can’t understand it, I can’t help you.” That’s an art school posture. Say something.)

4. What is your work about?
What themes, issues or ideas are you addressing? You may allow your feeling or emotion to come through, and you may align yourself esthetically with a particular artist or school, but keep your opinion out of it; that’s a job for the critic or essayist. So while you may think you are a worthy successor to Mike Kelley or Louise Bourgeois, or that you're the art world’s next Cindy Sherman, allow Jerry or Roberta or one of their colleagues to make that pronouncement.

5. Why are you doing it?
Yeah, yeah, you’re making art because you have to create. Now tell us something we don’t know about the work. How does it relate to a previous body of work? How does it respond to a situation or movement? Why is it coming out of you in this way at this time? Ideally—and without being pompous about it—you will help the reader understand where the work fits into landscape of contemporary art. 

6. How are you doing it?  
If you address this question, don’t get bogged down. If your work is process intensive, or if you work with an unusual technique, acknowledge it, explain it simply and directly (if you think it needs explaining) and then move on.

7. Mention medium if it’s relevant
I see this with newbies, with artists working in a process-intense or technically demanding medium, or with mediums that are unusual. But keep this thought in mind: The medium is simply the means to express your ideas. It’s not the reason for the work. Silverpoint, for instance, has a long history, but you are a contemporary artist, not Leonardo. Encaustic is luminous and beautiful, but it doesn't have magical powers; it's just pigment suspended in wax. If your medium is talking to you, talk to a therapist.

8. Edit what you’ve written
Edit it again. Put it down, then come back and edit it once more. You not only want to catch the typos, you want to smooth out the phrases that cause a reader to stumble.

9. Ask another artist to read it for you
That person should be able to read through it once, in two or three relaxed breaths, and understand exactly what you mean. If they have to re-read it to get it, or if they don’t know what you are talking about, go back to Step 2.

10. Get good at it
The statement speaks on your behalf, so it will need to change as the work develops. And your work will continue to develop for your entire life.

As an ongoing project, read about art in various literary forms:
. First-person comments: See how artists let you into their work via statements or interviews. The best and clearest statements are not just easy to read, they convey a lot of information gracefully and economically. 
. Reviews: Critics write objectively and analytically. Criticism should be more challenging than an artist’s statement. Someone else besides the artist is looking at and thinking about the work.
. Essays: These are think pieces. Essayists typically balance observation with critical thinking, often connecting the dots between artists and/or genres. If you're hiring someone to write an essay about your work, choose the writer carefully. If your work is included in a catalog essay for en exhibition, make sure the writer has your statement (or make sure it's accessible on line).
. Features: A feature writer may incorporate all of the above in some measure, typically in a more conversational tone, with personal facts, and typically with pictures.
. Profiles: Typically brief, it offers an aspect of an artist’s life and work. There’s usually less about the what and why, more about the who.  
. Biography: This is the province of art historians, who will offer the full view, warts and all. (Different animal: If your dealer or a curator asks you to provide a bio, it's a resume in narrative form. Info here.)
. Academic writing: Thesis writing is its own genre. Stay away from it unless you are working toward a degree.

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Some Paintings During Armory Week

 Suzan Frecon at David Zwirner Gallery, New York City; ADAA

There was a lot of interesting painting at the fairs as well as in the galleries. (Sculpture, too.) I'll keep my comments short and show you what I saw. Yes, I'm drawn to geometric, minimal and chromatic, but over the next few posts you'll see a range of esthetic and material expression. Here it includes the mineral pigments of Suzan Frecon, to the egg tempera and gold leaf of Mary Obering, to the puddled paint of Ian Davenport, to the fiber-optic fabric of Daniel Buren's sculptural painting.

Installation view: Frecon at Zwirner
If you remember her large red paintings from the Biennial last time around, this scale may surprise you

 Above and below: Frecon at Zwirner

Mary Obering at Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York City; ADAA

 Clint Jukkala at Giampietro Gallery, New Haven; Scope

Ian Davenport, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City; Armory
Detail below

Odili Donald Odita, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City; Armory

Pepe Lopez, ArTepuy, Caracas; Scope

Barbara Takenaga, D.C. Moore Gallery, New York City; Armory Modern; detail below

 Philippe Decrauzat, Praz-Delavallade, Paris; Armory

Daniel Buren, Lisson Gallery, London; Armory
Side view below showing the light source

Detail below (of woven fiber-optic threads) 

Coming: More next Wednesday


Another Conceptual Connection

A Conceptual Connection

Here's another visual moment, this time from Armory Modern: a sculpture by the late American outsider artist, Judith Scott, and a painting by the late Canadian painter, Harold Town. The connection is thread. In Scott's work it is a found object wrapped over and over with yarn, string and thread until the object assumes an imposing form of its own. In Town's, it is a paint-laden string snapped repeatedly against the canvas resulting a fibrous surface of dense and saturated color.

At Ricco/Maresca, New York City: Judith Scott (1943-2005), Untitled, 1996, fiber and appropriated materials; detail below

At Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto: Harold Town (1924-1990), Snap, 1973-74, oil on canvas; detail above


Marketing Mondays: In The Ghetto

Stuck in a ghetto? Artists don't have to be

Ghetto is an Italian word—probably from borghetto, meaning “neighborhood” or “enclave”—to describe the area of Venice where the city’s Jews were forced to live in the 16th Century. Given that unjust beginning, ghetto has always had a negative connotation, one of confinement, where enclave has not. Beverly Hills, for instance, is an enclave but nobody calls it a ghetto.

So, a ghetto is not where you want position yourself if you want a larger place in the world.

And yet, artists create ghettos for themselves all the time. I’m not talking about the physical neighborhoods that can be very helpful for us in terms of critical mass for living, working or both (until the developers move in, jack up the rents and drive us out). No, I’m talking categories into which we willingly jump—or into which we allow ourselves to be pushed: women artists, black artists, fiber artists, paper artists, encaustic artists and the like.

I’m not  for a moment suggesting we deny our sex or race or the medium we work with. And I'm not suggesting we never participate in exhibitions or events in which a particular element of our identity is a unifying theme; indeed, the embrace of a community can be nurturing and safe. But a community can be as constrictive as it is supportive. So I'm suggesting we think about how we identify ourselves or allow ourselves to be identified. I’ve talked about the issue at greater length here and here but I think it’s worth mentioning again because artists continue to limit their options by a simple adjective.
Ask any "fiber artist" how many exhibitions s/he has participated in outside of the fiber world. Often, it's not many. On the other hand, I don't see the any of the artists in Textility straining under the yoke of such a label. Why? Because they don't use it. They employ or reference fiber and fabric in their work--indeed, that's why Mary Birmingham and I selected them for the exhibition--but they are painters and sculptors. And make no mistake, there's a longstanding tradition of painters and sculptors using fiber, from Robert Rauschenberg and Lucio Fontana to Sam Gilliam, Fred Sandback and Louise Bourgeois. 

Textility at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey: No "fiber at" here. The medium is fiber, the result is art
I deal with this issue regularly. When someone introduces me as an “encaustic artist,” I counter that my esthetic, which embraces lush color, rich surface and a reductive sensibility, translates into the work I do in other mediums as well. Recently, digital prints). I love the materiality of wax paint, but I'm a painter, not an "encaustic artist." I myself am not made of pigmented beeswax; that would be Madame Tussaud’s Joanne Mattera.  And to my knowledge that Joanne does not exist.

Now here's an encaustic artist: wax Picasso at Mme. Tussaud's

I'm writing this as I work on the Sixth International Encaustic Conference, which I founded and direct and now produce in cooperation with the Truro Center of the Arts at Castle Hill on Cape Cod in June. It’s a fabulous experience for artists who work in the medium—not “encaustic artists” but painters, sculptors and printmakers who have found their voice largely through a demanding but richly rewarding material. This is a professonal gathering—an enclave—where we get together once a year to hear from dealers, critics, curators and conservators, as well as artists at the top of their field, to learn, share, show our work, and have a great, tax-deductible time. This year our keynote is Edward Winkleman, owner of the Chelsea gallery that bears his name. He neither shows nor is made of wax, but I expect he will offer much for our conferees to consider.

I modeled the multi-event structure of the Encaustic Conference on that of the the annual College Art Association Conference, which took place recently in Los Angeles. We all need places to convene and confabulate, to talk shop, to hang out with those who get what we do, to show to and with one another. We just don't want to be stuck there. As with the CAA, we want to be able to go back into the larger art world, invigorated, to participate in a broader forum--no adjective, all noun.

Now, over to you:
. Have you found yourself in an art ghetto?
. What kind of art ghetto were you in?
. How have you gotten out?
. Was it / is it a problem to find opportunities "outside"?
. Have you/do you continue to enter and leave the ghetto at will?
. If you're happy there, what does it do for you?

A reminder: Anonymous comments are OK if they add to the conversation. But if you have something negative to say—to me, about the topic, to a commenter—have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself. I’m not providing a forum to cowards

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A Conceptual Connection

Another Conceptual Connection
Let the complainers whine about the fairs. I love them. Aside from having the world come to my doorstep, one of the pleasures for me is making momentary conceptual connections like the one I'm sharing with you here: Mona Hatoum and Susan Hefuna, both at the Armory Fair. Working in different mediums, they capture something of the space of personal architecture.

At Galleria Continua, San Giminiano, Italy: Mona Hatoun, Static II, 2008, steel chair, glass beads, fishing wire

At Pi Artworks, Istanbul: Susan Hefuna, Cityscape Tracing, 2011, ink on tracing paper


Some Armory Week Installations

At Scope: Here's a booth that stood out even from a distance

One thing about seeing so many fairs in a short time is that after a while it become less about individual works and more about how they are set into the larger context of an installation. I'm showing a few booths and walls that jarred me out of my art-fair trance.

Above and below: Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York

Artists  on left wall include Altoon Sultan and Shawn White, top row; Meghan Brady and Matt Philips, center and center right 

Big like here! Andrea Bergart painted the mural--reminiscent of South African Ndebele murals, but with a softer palette--and dealer Steven Harvey placed geometric abstractions theatrically within the composition. I loved the way each painting informed the others, and the way the walls embraced them all.

View of back wall with two large paintings, by Margrit Lewczuk and Joe Ballweg

Above Harvey, in black jacket: Matt Phillips; past his right shoulder, Shawn White, I think

Detail below: Ken Kewley, Matt Phillips, Altoon Sultan

At Volta: Andrew Masullo at Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston

Volta is a solo-projects fair, and Zevitas chose Andrew Masullo, who's having a major moment. His work is included in the Whitney Biennial, and during fair week it was also shown with Feature Inc, the Lower East Side gallery, at The Independent. Not only do I love Masullo's brand of abstraction--idiosyncratic and throbbingly saturated--but I appreciate that he hasn't capitulated to size. These works are meant to be viewed on an intimate scale.

View inside the booth, and an intimate view, below, of one of the works (my favorite)

At Armory Modern: Betty Parsons at Spanierman Modern, New York City

Spanierman Modern placed this installation of Betty Parsons assemblages on the outside wall of its booth. Parsons is famous as the 57th Street dealer who championed Abstract Expressionism, but she was also an accomplished sculptor.

Also at Armory Modern: Karl Benjamin paintings and Harry Bertoia sculpture at Louis Sterne Fine Arts, West Hollywood

One of the California Cool abstractionists from the Sixties, Benjamin is still painting. Read a fabulous interview with him on Geoform, where he chats with the site's editor, Julie Karabenick. And how much do I love the Bertoia against the Benjamins? 

Below: a view of the paintings with some distance between them and the Bertoia.  (Would someody please get rid of that wastebasket?)

At ADAA: Pavel Zoubok, New York City

Zoubok's program is focused on collage and assemblage, and his booths are always curated to reflect that same esthetic. (He had another booth at Armory Modern.) A find for this gallery: Lisa Nilsson, who makes rolled-paper collages of cross sections of body parts, like the head and chest, below left, and the slice of chest on the table. "A thoracic surgeon bought it," said Zoubok of the chest slice. 

Lisa Nilsson, mulberry paper collages

At Armory: the "wood" floor at Cardi Black Box, Milan

At Armory: Arlene Shechet at Jack Shainman, New York City

This large corner of Shainman's booth holds Shechet's clay sculptures and two cast-paper wall pieces.  The works are just radiating power.

Closer view, below

At Armory: Jennifer Dalton at Winkleman Gallery

There's Jennifer Dalton, socializing with the art fair hoi polloi. She really knows how to party. Wait! That's her caftaned doppelganger. The real Dalton is shown below. And her Mega Art Fair Dos & Don'ts is shown at the bottom.

Click pic to see the image larger