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.


Sharon said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review. To seeeven more similarities, check out my 2012 show at Real Art Ways, which included a wall of big, unstretched canvases:
Gone Wrong.

annell4 said...

A wonderful post!!!

mark said...

I love the ways Mr. Griffa plays with creases and folds. Sometimes paint stops at the fold other times it crosses over. The ways he works his marks is so smart that it belies their apparent simplicity. For me his work looks so assured, familiar in good ways...yet I've never seen anything like these specific pieces. GOOD STUFF!!