Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
(Post title from page 156 of February 2009 Artforum article A Hidden Reserve by Achim Hochdörfer)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I am almost 46 years old and I am making the first abstract paintings of my life.
SOUND EFFECT: (aaaaannk)
As I glance at the two dozen small paintings on my studio wall I think, "Well. . . they are almost abstract." That is to say, I still see stuff in them. In fact, the paintings are positively percolating with stuff. Which makes me wonder, "If I see stuff congealing, is it still abstract?"
Hmm. What is it that I'm doing? Why am I doing it? And why haven't I stopped?
My previous post, which was simply a cut'n'paste of a Sharon Butler blog entry, has got me thinking. Sharon's words come serendipitously connected to a time that I have two dozen small paintings hanging on my studio wall. Two dozen intimate moments of alienation and authenticity. And it is not just me. Mary Addison Hackett recently posted her own set of questions in response to Madame Butler's posting as follows:
-What defines a conceptual practice?
-What does it mean to be accessible?
-How do you define current discourse without being exclusive?
-What do you think the status of painting is today?
All this trauma over oil on jute:
GORGEOUS GREEN 2008
Oil on jute
24 1/4 x 32 inches
I can't speak for feminists. duh. I don't even think about gender when I look at paintings. Shit, I don't look at country, era, or social economic class when I look at paintings. I still believe in something that lasts beyond me. Something that isn't a brand. Something (unfortunately) that doesn't pay the bills, isn't hip, trendy, and, get this, still not reproducible on a mass scale. Music may have loads of virtues, but paintings are one of a kind.
I like paintings that ping pong between literalism and transcendence. Achim Hochdorfer describes it well when talking about Joan Mitchell's paintings (like the one above), "each brushstroke is individualised, an element to be observed or enjoyed for its own sake. Nevertheless, each stroke joins into relation with others; syntactic connections and mental images emerge, which eventually dissolve again in the chaos of lines, impelling the eye to begin searching anew" (Artforum, February 2009 page 154).
No easy essay answers tonight. The questions outweigh the answers at this point. The whole blog post is simply to reinforce my own practice anyway.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Louise Fishmanby Sharon L. Butler
Cheim & Read March 26 – May 2, 2009
In stark counterpoint to the New Museum’s wryly titled Younger Than Jesus show featuring artists under 33 years old, Cheim & Read is exhibiting the Abstract Expressionist paintings of seventy-year-old Louise Fishman, an artist who has been dedicated exclusively to painting for over fifty years. Critics usually address the materiality, the densely layered paint, and the overall toughness of her canvases, noting how Fishman’s non-mimetic imagery emerges through the physical act of painting. Her tenacious approach to art practice (paint, scrape down, paint, scrape down, paint…) is certainly labor-intensive in an old-fashioned way that evokes admiration for her determined endeavor. She has ignored aesthetic wanderlust, postmodern doubt, and post-postmodern theory in favor of a singularly rigorous studio practice. Unlike the work of many younger artists, Fishman’s paintings don’t hinge on clever ideas or strategic theoretical constructs. Rather, she finds meaning in the physical process of making the art itself—a disposition that lends itself to exhaustive depth rather than expansive breadth.
The Fishman exhibition comprises three big rooms full of large-scale paintings. They feature dark, clotty passages of dull, textured paint pulled across the expanses, some with a final topcoat of twisty, truncated strokes combed and swept across the pocky surfaces. In Fishman’s work, Gerhard Richter’s 1980s squeegeed abstractions meet Willem de Kooning’s 1950s action paintings. Fishman’s show at Cheim & Read three years ago also featured broad horizontal and vertical brush strokes, but they were more clearly aligned with a loose, grid-like structure; the colors were lighter and less abrasive. In the new work, the lattice-like openings of the notional grid seem to have been filled in like potholes on a badly worn, weather-beaten highway. The contrast is obvious and jarring. The denser, more caustic, and ostensibly unlikable nature of her new paintings suggests that Fishman, like most sentient beings, may have developed a darker view of the world over the past few years.
Yet it is only the emotional and vaguely political aspects of her work that have varied appreciably over the course of a career. Except for a brief exploration of different approaches in the 60s and early 70s, when Fishman and her feminist cohort brazenly undertook to define a new grammar of feminine artistic expression, she has mined the same Abstract Expressionist vein for upwards of forty years. Fishman’s narrow-gauged though prodigious output demonstrates that she, like many other artists of her generation (Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, Bill Jensen, Pat Steir, Robert Ryman), is uninterested in extravagant experimentation with concept, approach, or materiality. Indeed, when Fishman started painting, lifelong concentration on a single medium and prolificacy were hallmarks of the great artist. Her commitment to, and mastery of, one medium is still undeniably admirable, her replete exploration of technique fascinating in its resolute intensity.
Nevertheless, Fishman’s paintings are out of sync with current discourse. Gallery-goers and museum visitors are accustomed to seeing a variety of objects rather than so many similar canvases—unless the artist is making, say, a cynical statement about repetition, like Josh Smith’s recent show at Luhring Augustine. Instead, audiences are more familiar with and engaged by multi-tasking artists who move fluidly between media, and for whom “pluralistic” describes not just contemporary art discourse but also their own individual practices. Such aesthetic preferences seem not so much normatively better or worse than those of Fishman’s generation, but simply the inevitable product of a changed world. Now, as information of all kinds has rapidly proliferated, artists employ a wider range of media to quickly process practically unlimited aesthetic and conceptual triggers. Inexorably, then, the circumstances of post-modern life have driven the contemporary artist to a decentralized practice that surveys rather than dissects or plumbs. That reality makes Louise Fishman’s art more diffident and less accessible. At the same time, her work harks wistfully and faithfully back to a time when a painter’s canvas could embody her world.
About the Author
Sharon L. Butler is a painter and associate professor of Visual Arts at Eastern Connecticut State University. She maintains an art blog, Two Coats of Paint, at www.twocoatsofpaint.com.