Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aqueduct Results, 11/29/08

I'm quite happy to report that Professor Paulie's highly anticipated return to the races was a successful one. Click here for results.

Old Fashioned crushed the Remsen Stakes for two-year-olds, improving his record to 3-for-3 and making him one of the early horses to watch for next year's Derby. Six months is an eternity in horse-racing, though - they were saying the same thing about Pyro and War Pass at this time last year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Paulie's Picks, Aqueduct, 11/29/08

College professoring has kept me away from races for quite a while, but I'm going to sneak out to the Big A tomorrow for the closing weekend on the main track. It's a rough card, full of wide-open races for maidens and two-year-olds. But far be it from me to shrink from a challenge, and after all, it's only money!

Here are Professor Paulie's picks for tomorrow's Aqueduct card:

1st race:
2 - Handsome Reward
9 - Globalization
7 - Reptilian Smarts

2nd race:
1 - Robachino
8 - Giant Ryan
11 - Strong Impact

3rd race:
8 - Thisonesforruthie
10 - Charge It
2 - Great Debater

4th race:
10 - Dubinsky
2 - Quality Road
5 - Copper Cascade

5th race:
8 - Winloc's Saint Ray
10 - Fortissi More
11 - Hoist the Gala

6th race, The Demoiselle, G2:
5 - Sky Diva
2 - Ain't Love Grand
4 - Springside

7th race, The Remsen, G2:
6 - Old Fashioned
2 - Idol Maker
7 - American Dance

8th race, The Cigar Mile Handicap, G1:
5 - Tale of Ekati
1 - Visionaire
9 - Kodiak Kowboy

9th race:
5 - Radical Sabbatical
2 - Forever My Friend
4 - Moon Ala Mode

Tune in tomorrow night for results.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paintings I Like, pt. 25

Joan Miro, "Mural Painting," 1951. Oil on canvas, 75" x 334."

A central issue in abstract painting is what to do about figure and ground. In the post-war years, the dominant strategies were to eliminate it altogether (as in color field), or to make the figure into a kind of overall swarm that transformed into ground (like Pollock and early Poons). If you wanted to keep the old-fashioned figure/ground relationship, you had approach it differently - you couldn't just make squares and squiggles that were stand-ins for the people, trees, and mountains of representational painting and then allow them to dangle there, unattached to the ground in a a meaningful way. Some individualized bargain with this problem had to be struck. Miro's method was to leave parts of the figures hollow. You can see through them to the ground, and they seem to pinch sections of the ground up through the open parts the figure, right up to the picture plane. It's brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness.

Upstairs from this painting's home in the lobby of MoMA, there's an exhibition of Miro's work from 1927-1937. The title of the show is "Painting and Anti-Painting," and the rhetoric of the supporting material, much of which was generated by the artist himself, is all about the subversion, murder, and renunciation of painting. I didn't see a single thing in the show that was hostile to painting. Miro was restless to be sure; eager to expand the boundaries and resistant to the idea of a signature style. But put up against Duchamp's readymades which were produced in the decade prior to the works in the Miro show, these pictures actually seem like an embrace and reinvigoration of the medium.

I've always felt that almost any animating principle can be made to function if that's the thing that gets an artist to go to his studio every day, even if that thing does not, in the end, desribe his or her work adequately (or at all). I think this is the case with Miro's stated desire to assassinate painting. The works communicate the absolute opposite of his putative intention: that he loved, revered, and nurtured painting.

The show is great, and it stays up until January 12, 2009.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Michael Brennan at 210 Gallery and P.S.1

Michael Brennan, "Twin Stars with Sirius White Line," 2008. Oil and wax on canvas, 21" x 32."

I've been a fan of Michael Brennan's paintings for a long time, and have always felt that he was generally under-recognized. Brennan is a painter who came of age during the lengthy "painting-is-dead" era, but recognized that there was still a lot of usable stuff in the wreckage of modernism; his work looks back on the history of 20th century abstraction, but has always belonged to his own time. It's a rare treat to be able to see new work in two places at once, but now's your chance, with one show hanging in Brooklyn and another in Queens.

To my eye, a primary aspect of "Twin Stars with Sirius White Line" and "No Second Troy" at 210 Gallery, and "Double Daimajin" at P.S.1, is a fresh take on Hans Hofmann's famous "push/pull" theory of abstract pictorial space. The theory is simple enough; the inescapable illusionism of painting is constantly counterbalanced with and undermined by motifs that aggressively emphasize the two-dimensionality and materiality of the picture plane, and, when deftly assembled, continually toggle between these two states in the eye of the viewer.

The horizontal bands on the bottom of all three pictures provide the lion's share of the "pull" up to the picture plane, doing all of the modernist stuff that stripes do: emphasizing flatness and echoing the top and bottom framing edge. The "push" is what make Brennan's paintings distinctly modern. His illusionism stems from a mysterious process of paint and wax application that at once identifies itself as a kind of gestural abstraction and simultaneously achieves an oddly photographic, back-lit spatial illusion. The swirling ghosts in the waxy upper portions of the paintings clearly organize themselves into figure/ground groupings; one on each side with a space in the center. This is a nice visual surprise, because the figure and ground, such as it is, is made of the same stuff, and the ribbons of that stuff are roughly equal in scale. What at first appears to be pure gestural improvisation reveals itself to be something more rigorous than meets the eye.

And there is another layer of illusion to Brennan's paintings aside from the pictorial space articulated by the gestures: The surface that the viewer is pulled back to doesn't give a stable account of itself as Hoffman's canvas and paint, but quickly transforms into the picture plane that looms largest over our era: the screen. The small scale of the pictures squarely references the ubiquitous laptop, and the liquidy, dissolving forms created by Brennan's process strongly evoke the CG aesthetic without specifically looking like a Pixar movie or video game.

Gestural abstraction is notorious for being a metaphor for the artist's interior state; the ultimate self-portrait. After the second generation of abstract painters (the so-called "Tenth Street" painters), the enterprise was largely condemned to ridicule, the pictorial equivalent of over-acting. Michael Brennan belongs to a small group of painters who have managed to reinvent gesture in such a way as to completely circumvent the agony content and make it function with the formal efficiency of geometry. In his pictures gesture is a motif instead of an autobiography.

The swirls in the pictures don't necessarily look like they were created by a person. They could easily be imagined as a natural occurrence (like oil dropping into water) or as a photographic, mechanical, or computer process. The benefit of this level of remove is that the viewer is able to engage the picture as opposed to the artist. Paradoxically, I think this makes for a greater intimacy; the viewer can relate directly to the thing itself instead of seeing it as a surrogate or stand-in for the maker, and can feel the freedom to explore its space, surface and contours without a biographical sub-text. And the viewer's uninfluenced gaze is richly rewarded; within the confines of these small-size pictures there's an awful lot to look at.

"Simple" at 210 Gallery is up until December 5th, and the gallery is located at 210 24th At. in Brooklyn. "Minus Space" at P.S.1 is up until January 26, and the museum is located at 22-25 Jackson Ave. in Queens. I highly recommend both.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Curlin v. Ted Stevens

Today it was revealed that one of the jurors from Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' recent trial for corruption lied about her father's death in order to get off of the jury before the end of the proceedings. Her father, as it turns out, is alive and well and living in North Carolina.

So what was the real reason that Marian Hinnant wanted to leave the trial early? So she could make it to the Breeder's Cup at Santa Anita! Finally, a citizen with a sense of priorities, even if she is a poor liar.