December 15, 2012

Papered with False Starts...

"I am not sure what more I could tell you about these pieces. I could tell you that I liked doing some of them more than others, but that all of them were hard for me to do, and took more time than perhaps they were worth; that there is always a point in the writing of a piece when I sit in a room literally papered with false starts and cannot put one word after another and imagine that I have suffered a small stroke, leaving me apparently undamaged but actually aphasic."

-Joan Didion, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

Like many creative projects, growth often happens backstage, powered down and sometimes way outside of one's typical area of focus. This is especially true for us here lately at Beard & Brush.   Although we won't be posting new material in this format, everyone involved in this project is still thriving and writing about art. Two of the writers are pursuing graduate degrees and one moved to Boston--so there you have it--a sign-off, for now.

Thank you for reading.

May 03, 2012

NOTED: Seeing Stars. The Atlantic Conference Presents: The Final Frontier

A one night show last Saturday in a studio turned gallery on Morgan Avenue featured works with a focus on time, metaphysics, space and energy. Matt Jones put the exhibition together with the intention on transforming a vacant studio into a gallery, curating an exhibition and getting people to start talking about art.  Mission accomplished. From a vitrine filled with Beuysian ephemera to a gunmetal grey space craft made of wood, The Final Frontier's galactic center drew a packed house on Saturday April 21st at 340 Morgan.  Complete with guards to control the crowd and to reposition Tatiana Berg's mobile sculpture to various points in the gallery, the exhibition presented some 38 artists and was hung floor-to ceiling, most works two dimensional but with a healthy contingent of sculpture.  The Atlantic Conference began as a kind of artist collective which now operates as a publisher of artist books and editions.  Kadar Brock, one of the originators of The Atlantic Conference, showed the additive counterpart to his scraped paintings, his work in the show was dirtier and more rough than many of his recent efforts highlighting the experimentation and freedom which exist within artist run spaces. The original aim of the Atlantic Conference was to serve as a creative incubator for emerging artists and held forums and discussions in studios around Brooklyn.  The dialogue that started with the AC's inception continues today with exhibitions including The Final Frontier.  Eric Wiley, Jones' apprentice, sat good humoredly for an impromptu critique of his painting before the opening.  
Part improvisation, part curation,  The Final Frontier offered emerging artists the opportunity to show work alongside Harmony Korine and Brock Enright among other well established painters, sculptors and multi media artists. Enright's magma-like volcanic Jason mask wall sculpture loomed over the show, the iconic black eye holes  like craters on a freaky lopsided planet.  Mark Gibson, longtime friend and colleague of Jones showed a dyptich of drawings with two pairs of eery eyes gazing at each other above mountain-like terrain.  The celestial or otherworldly were present in many works while a pervasive sense of humor lingered in the air.  An extension of the show was the poster, which listed all of the artists on the verso.  Each artist was asked to write their "Top 5" art heros...a daunting task which according to Jones pushed the artists into making a statement about their engagement in history. The choices were sometimes telling and sometimes perplexing but with names like Albert Pinkham Ryder, Gucci Mane and Liz Taylor being thrown around, something unexpected was sure to happen.

                                           Installation view, The Final Frontier

                                                      Daniel Heidkamp

                                                               Jason Peters

                                                       Guy Richards Smit

                                                 Harmony Korine

Artists included in The Final Frontier:

Tatiana Berg
Jean-Baptiste Bernadet
James Brittingham
Kadar Brock
Kate Casey
James Case-Leal
Kirsten Deirup
Brian Dulaney
Brock Enright
Giovanni Forlino
Josh Freydkis
Ted Gahl
Mark Gibson
Max Gimblett
Tamara Gonzales
Stephanie Gonzalez-Turner
Daniel Heidkamp
Jay Henderson
Amber Ibarreche
Matt Jones
Benjamin King
Harmony Korine
Noah Lyon
Billy Maker
Virginia Martinsen
Rob Nadeau
Jon Newman
Eli Ping
Jason Peters
Max Razdow
Guadalupe Rosales
Guy Richards Smit
Bob Szantyr
Jason Tomme 
Kim Westfall
Eric Wiley
Jen Zakrzewski

The Final Frontier was on view April 21, 2012

Presented by the Atlantic Conference

Click here to get the full color catalogue with a press release by Tali Autovino

April 08, 2012

REVIEW: Fred Wilson's Venice Suite at The Pace Gallery

By Matthew Farina

Fred WilsonTo Die Upon A Kiss, 2011, Murano glass, 70" x 68-1/2" x 68-1/2" 

A brooding and precise tension pervades the recent works of the Bronx-born MacArthur "Genius" Fred Wilson, who has recently been living in Venice. His new show, loosely derived from the visual and historical environment that surrounded him in Italy, is as shiny and slickly-constructed as anything you’ll see in Chelsea these days, but flourishes with an intimate darkness.

Wilson, who is now 58, has a continuing interest in the 18th century chandelier as a source for historical nostalgia and personal metaphor.  Some may remember Wilson’s piece Speak of Me as I Am, an all-black glass chandelier hung in the 2003 Venice Biennale. The work referenced Shakespeare’s Othello while drawing a connection to Africans who lived in Venice during the 16th through 18th centuries.  The new, wildly embellished chandelier dominating the front gallery at Pace, titled To Die Upon a Kiss, evokes a transitional state for viewers.  The chandelier not only includes a fade in the glass—from saturated black, to slate, then soft grey and finally into transparency—but also presents a conceptual transition that feels important to note.  Standing directly beneath the piece, one feels enveloped by the loss of black which dissipates towards a crystallized web of light at the top of the chandelier—a sort of Minimalist ascension. 

Wilson's intellectual considerations for the work are revealed with unusually telling wall text written by the artist himself.  Commentary on race, which is central to Wilson's practice,  isn't apparent by merely looking at the work, but adds an intriguing dimension. A smaller chandelier hangs in the back gallery along with several dense assemblages that look like Venetian frames clinging to themselves in black masses.  The relationship between historical painted images and Wilson's conceptual use of their absence is satisfying.

Fred Wilson, Sala Longhi, 2011, black float glass, antiqued gold painted wood frames, Murano blown glass, and light bulbs, installation dimensions variable

Nearby are a set of wall-hung monochromes presented in distressed faux-gilded frames.  Each image, as an ensemble titled The Sala Longhi (2011), after Pietro Longhi’s Ca’Rezzonico (1760’s), consists of a glossy black surface with coin-sized holes cut into the glass.  The holes are located in the same places as the figures’ heads in Longhi’s suite of paintings which evokes a stark and empty memory of the original paintings.  Wilson relates this work to the financial downturn he observed in the United States during 2008, which was starkly opposed by the opulence surrounding the artist in Venice as he considered Longhi’s fanciful paintings. “I remember that I felt a dark economic cloud loomed on the horizon.  I wondered to myself if that cloud would engulf New York as well.  I looked around me and no one seemed to notice the slow moving storm.”[1] 

Wilson’s sense of impending disaster and blackened 'difference' can be resolutely felt in the new show.  Softball-sized droplets, attached to the walls in separate pieces, simulate zones of falling black material like gelatinous comets.  The suggestion that the moment of destruction is upon us—as the droplets are frozen in time—is a nice compliment to historical use of temporality in the chandeliers and frame-assemblages. Wilson conflates time and history to give us a sense of both slowly creeping and quickened doom.

Exhibition continues at The Pace Gallery until April 14, 2012.

[1] A Statement by Fred Wilson. The Pace Gallery. 2.

March 16, 2012

LINKED: Kadar Brock and Matt Jones at Horton Gallery, Berlin

by Eric Sutphin
Matt Jones, Energy II, 2012, acrylic and urethane on canvas, 71x94.5"

In the Berlin iteration of the painting-centric gallery Horton (their New York location is at 504 W. 22nd Street) Matt Jones and Kadar Brock again join artistic forces in a tripped out installation of phsycho-cellestial paintings. According to the press release, Brock cannibalizes old endeavors (his canvases) and sands away layers leaving disjointed fragmentary bits of the paintings former self, revealing a kind of hollowed out other. Jones continues to mine cosmological and spiritual symbols and systems in his voluminous new paintings resembling nebulae or cosmological events. In Jones's Energy paintings, transparent passages of saturated color float in and through deep star-studded space. There is a hyper-activity of forms moving through the field but somehow the cacophony settles into paintings that are expansive and evoke a meditative silence. My auditory correlatives here are not too far flung, as both Brock and Jones often cite musical influences in their work. Brock and Jones met as undergraduates at The Cooper Union. They have remained engaged in a constant dialogue since their student days and intersections exist in their work. I saw Brock and Jones's works side by side in 2007 in a group show when their work was louder, messier and more image laden. Fast forward to 2012, Jones's paintings have become more complex in his synthesis of materials and subject. On the surface, Brock's work appears more airy, simplified. Particles of the painting's past hover over the distressed surfaces. Some of the works are hung with edges nearly touching, shoulder to shoulder. The paintings activate one another; Jones's multiverse to Brock's topographies.

Installation view, Evil Dead 2: Matt Jones and Kadar Brock, Horton Gallery,Berlin

Kadar Brock, deredemitsdi, 2009-12 oil, acrylic, flashe,house paint,spray paint on canvas, 56x42"

Evil Dead 2 is on view through March 30, 2012 Horton Gallery (Berlin)

*all photos courtesy of Horton Gallery

January 28, 2012

REVIEW: "Grisaille" at Luxembourg and Dayan

by Matthew Farina

Color is the matter at hand in a grey-focused show at Luxembourg and Dayan Gallery on the Upper East Side. Grisaille, curated by Alison Gingeras, is a five-level homage to greyscale art, which includes a diverse bunch of heavy hitters—16th century to present—ranging from artists from the workshop of Albrecht Dürer to more modern and contemporary artists like Frank Stella, Carl Andre, Sigmar Polke, John Currin and Andy Warhol. Grisaille, as a term describing a historical painting technique, doesn’t summarize the show’s motivation, which we learn is a perplexing ode to 42 artists who have, at some point, made grey work.

The walnut colored walls on the first floor present strong opening statements including Glenn Brown’s “Oscillate Wildly” (1999), which (in strict a grey value scale) depicts a stretched out image of Salvador Dali’s “Autumnal Cannibalism.” After seeing the grey pop off the warm walls and walking by a remarkably peaceful Alex Katz painting, it’s easy to delight in plentiful juxtapositions and surprises. One will find each floor to possess a different wall color that situates works into unnamed zones. The layout, which includes the occasional salon-style grouping and unexpected pairing, is all about comparisons, some much more intelligently realized than others.

There are without question some effective groupings of artwork with wall-color, chosen by architect David Adjaye. A bubble-gum-pink colored third floor presents the most compelling of these juxtapositions. Robert Morris’s “Untitled” (1967), a wall-hung felt work, and “Fuck Painting #4” (1972) by Betty Tomkins, a close-up of vaginal penetration, hangs across from it—a contrast in both material and imagery where both works wrap you in a cold fleshiness. Agnes Martin’s focused “Untitled” (circa 1961) anchors the group as the wall color wrangles the works together.

Down the hall is a deep boys-den-turquoise section that houses a more austere trio including Frank Stella, Richard Prince and Brice Marden. The wall color, at some points in Grisaille, gets the better of the work. The Marden painting is among the most obvious of these casualties as, in nearly matching values, it sinks unceremoniously out of view. “Compared to the walls, grey works as a conceptually open signifier,” the Gallery Attendant explains, “it ranges from practicality to depression.” If, through all of the show’s lofty names and its dramatic presentation, one must classify Grisaille as anything, “conceptually open” may be vague but on target.

Some viewers will want greater resolution. Rather than being led by a curatorial slant, at times Grisaille is like a glitzy truck that has lost its brakes—speeding through nuances of the individual pieces to arrive at a showy destination. Rarely though, has an exhibit stuck in the dull fog of its own importance been as oddly captivating to see in full color.

---- More information here:
"Grisaille" closes Saturday, January 28, 2012.

January 25, 2012

REVIEW: Joyce Pensato: Batman Returns at Friedrich Petzel

By Matthew Farina

If Batman has returned he is, for the moment, a New Yorker.  Joyce Pensato’s current exhibit at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, her third showing in the space, is a revealing update for viewers.  The artist has been painting Batman (a subject she has resurrected from her ‘90’s work) and other figures seen in American cartoons like Homer Simpson, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.  The show also includes extensions of her studio life such as stuffed animals, paint-covered studio furniture, digital photographs and other ephemera.

Joyce Pensato, Donald 2009, 2009, Enamel on Linen, 90 by 72 inches

Pensato’s work darkly and roughly coats Pop art imagery with an AbEx shellac. But the sticky-looking surfaces and dirty synthetic fur seen in Batman Returns don’t feel overloaded with strategy.  Pensato has let her inspirations emerge naturally. Attending the New York Studio School in the ‘70’s, she and her classmates worshipped Philip Guston.  She later formed a relationship with Joan Mitchell—admiring the likes of Mitchell's big-brushed forcefulness. Pensato’s brassy grasp of paint as well as an interest in Pop icons has spilled gelatinously into a unique territory.  As Jeff Koon’s impresses upon a larger public with a polished continuation of Pop art for the 2000’s, Pensato offers something grittier, more personal and imbued with a real sense of psychological turmoil.

One may wonder, given this grit and all the sullied surfaces, how Pensato is feeling. The loose boundaries from work to work in the new show help to make the paintings, photographs and installations one large arrangement of her emotional life.  It’s clear that that there is little separation from the gallery to studio in terms of presentation—no tidying up needed in Pensato’s world.  Drips of hardened enamel cover everything—as if, between loading the brush and contact with her canvas, Pensato let her drips fall on history. They form a speckled aura around the manic smiles of her subjects. As these cartoon figures, in their original form, are not this visceral or carved this boldly into existence, we learn that Pensato loves rawness.  The audaciousness of her style, paint quality and treatment of found objects included, all charge outward. Piercing eyes and Rorschach-test-clumpiness confronts the viewer. The abrasive “Donald 2009” reveals these qualities as it verges into ugliness. The impact after a few minutes gets more melancholy—more poignant.  Pensato's initial Pop deflates through an insinuation of her process—one that degrades and freakishly pokes at her once gleeful subjects through her purposeful sloppiness and speed.  Never has SpongeBob SquarePants, in stuffed form, looked so lifeless and dirty—so depleted of hope.

In Batman Returns, Pensato’s East Williamsburg studio, where she worked for over 30 years, is meant to be considered. As her neighborhood certainly transformed before she moved in 2011, the artist’s cast of stuffed characters, and their appearance in her paintings, have weathered the changes with her. One can infer, if the Batmobile were Pensato’s to enjoy, she’d ride it happily for the junker it’s become.

Exhibition continues until February 25, 2012.
More information here:

January 23, 2012

NOTED: Ascetic Delight in the New American Wing

by Eric Sutphin

Exhibited within the context of American Impressionism, John Singer Sargent's The Hermit (1908) is an unexpected treasure in the newly unveiled American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The painting is all mid-afternoon sun, scorching Middle Eastern sun, a depiction of the cradle of civilization, a desolate Eden (though Sergent was reluctant about making religious connections to the painting). The work is undoubtedly Impressionist as Sargent's quick flicks of ochre and yellow are pure sun and one can hear the brittle foliage crackle as the two lithe fawns amble out of view. The figure at the bottom right of the canvas is seated amongst the rocks and flora, he gazes up and outward into the cosmos and seems at once to emerge from the terrain itself, his sandy flesh echos the earth, his celestial gaze points toward the realm of the spirit. Far from the languid luncheon or gleeful street scene one usually connects to American Impressionism, The Hermit opens our eyes to the sensuousness the Impressionists brought in its best examples. The subject here remains veiled, the mystery of the sitter and his disconnectedness from us heightens the impact of the paint itself. If we cannot obtain answers, a narrative, in the action of the figure then we are apt to be content with what is given us; brilliantly diffused sun filtered through a grove of midsummer foliage, a man disconnected from society and a pair of fawns unaffected by the strange creature occupying their terrain.

Click here to learn more about the New American Wing

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street)
New York, NY 10028