Canvasing the Neighborhoods:

Giorgio Griffa, Fragments 1968 – 2012
and Sharon Butler, Precisionist Casual

Giorgio Griffa, detail of Linee orizzontali

Sharon Butler, detail of Vent

This is a tale of two solo exhibitions representing two continents, two artists of different generations, two time periods, two different scales and two New York City neighborhoods. What unites them is the way the artists use their canvas—unprimed and largely unstretched—and the linearity of their work.

Installation view walking into the gallery, with Obliquo foreground and Strisce orizzontali

We start with Giorgio Griffa’s Fragments at Casey Kaplan, up through March 2. Back in October, Griffa’s show was up all of one day before the flood waters rose. It is heartening to see the gallery in pristine condition again and the work back up on the walls. I could be flip and describe this 72-year-old Italian artist as the lovechild of Agnes Martin and Morris Louis, but they were all contemporaries and he was doing the work of his time, the late Sixties and the Seventies, as he painted acrylic onto unprimed canvas. 
I love the provisional quality of the presentation: the grid of the folded canvas against the handpainted stripes, the loose threads at the edges, the way the canvas pinned to the wall stretches slightly at the top corners. Of course “provisional” wasn’t the term when he was making the work, but the term translates well to now and his paintings from that time feel contemporary in a way that Louis's do not. (Martin is, of course, timeless.)

Strisce orizzontali (Horizontal Stripes), 1976

Installation view in second gallery, with Strisce orizzontali in the distance

In this panoramic installation view, we move counterclockwise to focus on Linee orizzontali, center
Below: Isolated view of Linee orizzontali (Horizontal lines), 1973 . . .

. . . and the Louis-esque corner detail repeated from the image that opens this post

Back in the first gallery, heading out, with Linea spezzata at left
Below: Full view of Linea Spezzata (Broken line), 1974. Image from the gallery website

While Griffa’s practice has been consistent (he describes it as “constant and never finished”, adhering to “the memory of material”), to my eye, the newer work, more gestural—see it on the website—doesn’t have the power of his oeuvre from the Seventies. But go see for yourself. The exhibition is up through March 2. And if you can’t get to the gallery, visit it online.  

View from the street of Pocket Utopia on the LES

From Chelsea we move to the Lower East Side to view Sharon Butler’s Precisionist Casual at Pocket Utopia. The exhibition, now over, features similar provisional ideas in brand-new work (all dated 2013) in smaller scale by an American artist of the generation after Griffa. Stretchers are visible, the canvas stapled but not actually pulled taut. Selvedges, frayed edges and wrinkles insinuate themselves into the work, not so much in defiance of painting’s conventions but as an extension of them.

Butler’s subject matter is urban and industrial, combining the linearity of grids with the shapes of geometric abstraction. If Griffa is related to Martin and Louis, I’d describe Butler, author of the well-read Two Coats of Paint, as Rauschenberg’s headstrong daughter, forging new paths in not-unfamiliar territory.

I'm going to take you around the galler clockwise. The work at far left in this image is the one you see in the window, above, and in the full view below

Egress, 2013; pigment, silica binder, staples on linen, 12 x 12 inches. Image from the gallery website

Casual grouping on the gallery desk as we continue around the room

Working our way to the back wall . . .

. . . and continuing around toward the front of the long narrow space. The blue light of late afternoon coming in through the window hits against the gallery's yellower illumination. Individual works from this wall are shown below  

Yellow and Silver HVAC (stencil), 2013, pigment on canvas, 24 x 18 inches

Orange and Silver Vent, 2013; pigment, silca binder and staples on laundered linen

Vent, 2013; pigment, silica binder, staples on laundered inen, 12 x 12 inches

Soacked (Hurricane), 2013, pigment and silica linen tarp, 18 x 24 inches
You can see all of the images in the exhibition here.


Suzan Frecon: "Paper" at David Zwirner

Orange and Purple Composition,  2011, watercolor on Indian ledger paper
There's something appealing about seeing small work in a large space. The individual pieces are dwarfed, requiring you to move in close. Intimacy in a large space seems like an oxymoron, but Suzan Frecon's watercolors--reductive compositions on Indian ledger paper--simultaneously assert themselves while letting you in. 
The last time I wrote about Frecon's work, she was showing large paintings. Her reductive swipes and near monochrome palette are familiar, but these watercolor-on-paper works feel more contemplative. The gallery radiates a beauteous calm.
Suzan Frecon: Paper is up through March 23 at David Zwirner, 525 W. 19 St.

View into the main gallery with Orange and Purple Composition second from left
 Below: Dark Red with Vermillion, 2010, watercolor on Indian ledger paper, at far right in photo above 


View looking back toward gallery entrance
 Orange b, 2012, water on Indian ledger paper, shown at right on center wall

Small gallery off the entrance. The painting on the far wall is shown below

Cathedral Series,  Variation 10. 2012
This is one of three small paintings in the exhibition, oil on wood panel. I'm pretty sure the paint is mineral pigment suspended in oil, which gives the surface an almost enamel hardness and gloss
Below: Painting Plan Drawing for a Large Painting, 2004


Looking at Blogs

Yeah, yeah, I know I haven't been my usual prolific blog self lately. Sometimes life gets in the way, so today I'm aggregating a few blog posts I read regularly. But this is an interactive post. I also want to know what blogs you read--or which posts from these blogs you particularly liked.

Updated 2.12: Scroll for links to additional blogs provided by readers

Studio Critical
Author: Valerie Brennan

Description:  "This blog is about process, practice and getting to know a little bit more about what painters get up to in the studio."
Current post: New York Painter Leslie Wayne
"I generally have around 5 or 6 panels going on at a time, but they don’t all require the same amount of focus and deliberation. Some paintings simply need another layer of color applied and left to dry, where others call for some sort of resolution."

Image: Leslie Wayne, Untitled (yelloworangeteal),2013, oil on wood; here, detail

Editor: Brett Baker
Description: "Magazine of the p-ainting blogosphere"--a digest of writing compiled by Baker, with features by Baker
Recent links from the blogosphere: 
. Leslie Wayne and Lisa Pressman via Studio Critical
. Sigmar Polke by Victor Maldonado at the Portland Art Museum via Port
. Nancy Spero by Thomas Micchelli via Hyperallergic
. A report by Baker on the Jay DeFeo show at San Francisco MoMA 
Image:  Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958-66; oil with wood and mica on canvas; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The Jay DeFeo Trust, Berkeley, CA, and purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Judith Rothschild Foundation; © 2012 The Jay DeFeo Trust

Editor: Sharon Butler
Description: "I created Two Coats of Paint to share reviews, commentary, news, and background information about painting and related subjects."
Current posts:
. Michelle Forsyth at Auxiliary Projects in Bushwick
. Mario Naves and Brett Baker at Elizabeth Harris Gallery
" Where Naves paints thin and elegantly hard edge, keeping his lively images on the surface, Baker goes thick and clotty, creating small-scale blocks of abstraction, seemingly squeezed directly from the tube. Baker's paintings are darker and more obsessive than Naves, and they suggest that he is entertaining a philosophical question, trying to convince himself that, despite all practical evidence to the contrary, meaning resides in the process. And so he continues--we all do." 
Image: Brett Baker, Sisyphus (after Camus), 2008-2011, oil on canvas, 6 x 6 inches.

Winfred Rembert, Candy Soda, 2004. Dye on carved and tooled leather, 35 x 27 inches.  Courtesy of Kinz + Tillou Fine ArtArtcritical
Editor: David Cohen
Description: "The online magazine of art and ideas"
Current post: Cohen's  In From the Cold: The Outsider Art Fair
"The whole discourse of 'outsider' is arguably turned around in an art world where academic training has largely dispensed with formal skill sets and where artists are encouraged to dwell upon their obsessions or aspects of their identity that makes them 'other.”' But this doesn’t make anyone an outsider. Nor does it seem to rob the genuine outsiders of their authenticity."
More: Cohen is the founder, organizer and moderator of The Review Panel, a monthly examination of three or four exhibitions selected by Cohen and discussed by a changing group of art critics. Here's the link to a Podcast of the November 2012 Review Panel in which Blake Gopnik, Jane Harris and Christian Viveros-Faune join Cohen in discussing shows at the Met, the Brookyn Museum and Hunter College
Image: Winfred Rembert, Candy Soda, 2004, dye on carved and tooled leather, 35 x 27 inches. Courtesy of Kinz + Tillou Fine Art

As art writing in the mainstream press continued to diminish the art blogosphere is ever more essential to us.  I'll continue to make my contribution as well. But for today,  it's your journalistic contribution that counts. Tell us what art blogs you read. 
What you're reading
As you post your links in the Comments section, I'll create live links here:

Toby Sisson
Daily Serving
Dawoud Bey's What's Going On

Katherine Tyrrell's Making a Mark
Daniel Maidman
Gurney Journey

Tamar Zinn:
Altoon Sultan's Studio and Garden
Lynette Haggard Art Blog
The Brooklyn Rail 

Lynette Haggard:
Nancy Natale's Art in the Studio
Abstract Critical
Lisa Pressman
Deborah Barlow's Slow Muse
Structure and Imagery

Thomas Hoadley:
Altoon Sultan's Studio and Garden
Deborah Barlow's Slow Muse

Annell Livingston:
Some Things I Think About

Jeanne Heifetz:
In the Make

Michael Chesley Johnson
Google Reader bundle of painting blogs

Anonymous 1
Look and Listen by Yifat Gat 
Paul Behnke's Structure and Imagery
Tamar Zinn 
Non-Objective Painting
Drawing in an Expanded Field (en français) 

Anonymous 2
Leslie Parke 

Sharon Butler:
Raphael Rubenstein's The Silo
Mira Schor's A Year of Positive Thinking 
Carol Diehl's Art Vent
Joshua Abelow's Art Blog Art Blog
Catherine Kehoe's Powers of Observation
Nancy McCarthy's Painting: Personal and Powerful

I'm adding Two more:
Sharon Butler's Two Coats of Paint
And  Shana Dumont Garr,  the mag-style website of the art historian/curator

Susan Shulman
William Everton 

Diane McGregor
Edward Winkleman 
Rebecca Crowell