Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Grid List, Detroit, Friday, 1/27

If you find yourself in Detroit, Michigan this Friday, 1/27, make sure to stop by The College for Creative Studies Center Galleries for the opening of "Grid List." The show contains work by various artists who are engaging with the grid. Many of the same artists from last year's "Saturation Point" in London are included. My contribution is pictured below.

A slightly smaller version of the show will be opening at Allegra LaViola Gallery in NYC in March.

Toga Tiger, 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 60."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Hottie HoTY

With all this talk about art of late, I forgot to mention that the winner of the 2011 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, announced this past Monday, is Havre de Grace, seen above winning the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga this past September. The girls have now won HoTY honors for three years running now, with Zenyatta winning in 2010 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Havre de Grace is a nice horse for sure, but she seemed like at odd choice to me for best actress. But then when I really thought about it, I couldn't think of a logical candidate to replace her - it just wasn't a superstar year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mad, Mysterious d richmond

In Paintings I Like pt. 75, I linked to three excellent blog posts by d richmond of Immaterial Culture about the de Kooning retropspective at MoMA. He's since added some final thoughts gathered after visiting the show on the last day (this past Monday), along with some ruminations about the rewards and difficulties of a life in painting - click here, here, here, and here to read these posts.

And better still, mr. richmond got a very nice mention on for this series over at the marvelous Painters' Table blog. Nice work d!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Hassle Recommends

If you find yourself in Brooklyn this Friday (the 13!), make sure to stop in at Ventana244 for a group show that includes my good friends George Hofmann and Michael Zahn. Tell 'em Paulie sent ya!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paintings I Like, pt. 76

Willem de Kooning, Pirate (Untitled II), 1981. Oil on canvas, 88" x 77."

Untitled XIX, 1981. Oil on canvas, 77" x 88."

Rider (Untitled VII), 1981. Oil on canvas, 70" x 80."

In the Renaissance, a central debate in painting was whether colorito or designo should be the primary, organizing factor in a picture. Partisans of Michelangelo favored designo, and fans of Titian insisted colorito was the most important aspect. Late in his long career, Titian declared emphatically that he had found the grand bargain between both. Painters since then have, whether they did so consciously or not, generally favor one over the other. Matisse grappled with problem quite self-consciously as he tried to meld his advanced color sense with cubist innovation. In the Abstract expressionist period, Pollock, de Kooning, and Franz Kline clearly were the masters of designo, and Newman and Rothko were the exponents of colorito.

At least that's the way history has recorded Ab Ex output - but de Kooning, like Titian, lived a long time, and in the '80's, Titian-like, he found the golden mean between the two pillars of painting. He used saturated color as a structuring element and combined it with gesture without making mud-pies. This was in large measure owing to his discovery of white paint and slower gestures, but sometimes the most effective solutions to knotty problems turn out to be the simplest.

In the reviews of the current retrospective, the reception to the late paintings in print has been very good, and I'm glad about it - I've always felt that these were among De Kooning's strongest paintings. There was a terrific exhibition of those pictures in 1997 (the year the artist died), also at MoMA. I remember being bowled over, and also being quite surprised at the critical ambivalence the pictures received - there were lengthy, pointless debates about his mental health and whether or not the paintings could be viewed as authentic if he was not in his right mind. Who fucking cares?

There is an age-related factor that is entirely plausible in these pictures, however, and it relates more to the body and not the mind. As I mentioned above, the gesture in these paintings is palpably slower that the lightning sluices in his work from the '40's to the '60's. This approach makes sense given the artist's advanced age at this point, and if true also represents artistic ingenuity at its best - great artists have always found a way around extra-aesthetic limitations, whether they be financial, political, or if you're just too damned old to swing a paintbrush like a sword any more.

The show stays up until Jan. 9 - this Monday. If you haven't seen it yet, you have about 48 hours so try and get over there. And spend some time in that last room - de Kooning, like Titian, ended his career on a really high note, which is something we can all only hope for.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paintings I Like, pt. 75

Willem de Kooning, Dark Pond, 1948. Enamel on composition board, 47" x 56."

Black Untitled, 1948. Oil and enamel on paper, mounted on wood, 30" by 40."

Untitled, 1948-49. Oil and enamel on paper, mounted on composition board, 36" by 49."

This post is something of a reprise of P.IL. 61; there was only one of de Kooning's black paintings in the big Ab Ex show a year ago at MoMA, but there was a really nice group of them in the current retrospective, which I wanted to talk about a little more.

At the risk of laboring a point I already made (which is something my wife is quite tired of), these pictures really emphasize de Kooning's European-ness in contrast to Pollock's American-ness, in spite of the passing resemblance between the WdK black paintings and Pollock's drips. Pollock's process-driven arabesques and monumental scale represented the apogee of a certain strain of American post-war abstraction. The figuration expunged all vestiges of representation while still using the curve; the latter being a kind of bugbear for European painters who could only achieve that level of abstraction via the grid. Pollock's big scale famously paralleled the big American vista, but it more importantly wrapped it's arms around the intrinsic relationship between the size of paintings and the size of people. 8' by 18' is big, but not that big - if that was the size of your apartment, you'd probably be grumpy about it. But it's big in the sense that without mimetic references, you compare the scale of abstract pictures to your own body, which is considerably smaller than many Pollocks.

De Kooning's black paintings, made at precisely the same time as Pollock's monumental drips, were attacked by Clement Greenberg - the small scale and vestigial representation, CG thought, were symptoms of terminal Euro-old-fashioned-ness; a refusal to embrace the modern. The black pictures are full of references to intertwined bodies - Reubensesque group sex scenes captured in a kind of glimpsed photo-negative. But what Greenberg couldn't understand at the time was that for de Kooning, banishing all reference to sexy European Baroque easel painting couldn't possibly be considered a victory on any level. Abstraction for him was a way of expanding that already rich language, not rejecting it. Embedded in this approach was a refusal to be made a foot-soldier in a certain kind of aesthetic-cultural battle. And as I've been saying in previous posts, this is what makes him the really relevant role model for the contemporary painter - expansion and synthesis as opposed to reduction, and choices based on a personal vision as opposed to a historical agenda.

Also of interest - the shadowy d richmond of Immaterial-Culture has put up some very good posts on the de Kooning retrospective - click here, here, and here to read them.

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Hassle at!

Special thanks yet again to artist and thinker Brett Baker for giving No Hassle at the Castle a nice mention on the Huffington Post!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No Hassle on Painters' Table

Paintings I Like #74 got a nice mention on Painters' Table, one of my hands-down favorite blogs. Painter Brett Baker is the owner and operator. Thanks, Brett!