Nominally a show of sculpture, Matthew Marks is presenting something more like relics of art world myth, or a romanticized artist-buddy story (think Lust for Life or Schnabel's Basquiat). It seems an odd pairing at first glance: Pollock, whose paintings consist of poured or dripped skeins of paint and are the archetype of Ab Ex passion, and Tony Smith, whose Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic monuments ushered in an Age of Cool. This show presents the remains of a day, one spent at Smith's New Jersey home, when Smith tried to coax out of the fallow (and soon-to-be-dead) Pollock a few last attempts at making art and ended up becoming a sculptor himself.
I am running late, so I park the Ducati on the sidewalk and toss the keys to an eager production assistant. It is incredibly hot and crowded as I push my way through a crowd of background actors to the location, which has been carefully designed to look like a gallery. Wardrobe has given me an antique Ramones t-shirt (which actually has some of Debbie Harry's vintage blood on the sleeve) and a period Hugo Boss Nazi SS uniform jacket with five firing-squad bullet holes through the left lapel (vintage blood carefully removed). Also, store-torn Alexander McQueen jeans (a gift from an Olsen twin, I think) and flip-flops, which are decorated with pictures of colorful monkeys.
The paintings of Matt Bahen are nothing if not quiet. That is not to say that they do not speak to us, directly and clearly; they do, but in hushed voices, as if imparting a secret. It might be easy to overlook such work -- simple, almost monochromatic paintings of derelict landscapes -- were it not so good.
Bahen's subjects are ruined places: empty industrial buildings, Anselm Kiefer-ish woods, and frozen, snowy rivers. It would be more precise to say that these are Bahen's locations; his real subject matter is paint. In "The August of the Night" (2012 [left]) and "In the Quiet of the Dark" (2012), Bahen uses the plays of light, gliding through empty spaces and tracing rectangular windowpane patterns on the walls to exercise a muscular brush, loading heavily leaded pigment layer by layer -- essentially sculpting that most fleeting thing, light, out of dense pigments.
Things fall apart…at least in the recent paintings of Angela Dufresne, whose works are in a two-gallery exhibition at Monya Rowe and CRG entitled Parlors and Pastorals. That is the impression at first glance: nominal landscapes and scenes of bourgeois interiors, these paintings, awash with color and executed with an impressive arsenal of painterly paint handling, are slipping glimpses into scenes both real and imagined, caught in a state of permanent contingency.
While in Japan vacationing with my in-laws, I had the good fortune to catch an exhibit built around an Important Cultural Property (an official designation) of Japan: an exquisite pair of six-panel screens by Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795). The other ten byōbu (screens) in the exhibit are valuable for much more than context; several of them are just as remarkable as the featured work, and this two-gallery exhibit kept me occupied for over an hour. It was too breathtakingly beautiful not to document.
Cat Crotchett is a visual artist and professor at Western Michigan University. She recently sat down with Bradley Rubenstein in Chelsea to talk about her new work.
Bradley Rubenstein: It was great seeing some of your new pieces. I’m not sure exactly what we should call them -- they are a kind of hybrid print. I was comparing them to the two little Pollocks up at the Whitney now [Untitled (1939-42); Untitled (1944)] where he was also using wax as part of the process. Can we talk a little about your new pieces first?
Cat Crotchett: They are encaustic mono-prints and involve a very intuitive process based on random marks I make with the encaustic paint when I’m printing. At this point I can’t predict how they’ll look when they transfer to paper. When I look at the paint on the encaustic palette, I have an idea of how the piece might turn out, but the reality is something completely different. I’ve decided to embrace this abdication of control even though it is definitely uncomfortable.
Kaethe Kauffman’s archival inkjet and mixed media scrolls are comprised of suggestive vignettes, lucid passages, and familiar pairings. However, an elusive narrative emerges that defies that base. The main thread, parts of the body, registers in ways that are both intimate and particular, while the anonymity of the faceless figures gives each work a more symbolist tone. There are patterns here as well that suggest one cause of behavior that develops through repetition. It is also quite possible that Ms. Kauffman is commenting on how we target gesture and color, then detail in our daily observations when we make a judgment or speculation.
Michael Lee Nirenberg is an artist and filmmaker living in New York. His current documentary is BACK ISSUES: The Hustler Magazine Story.
Bradley Rubenstein: Your most recent action,
Redacted, involves overpainting your past works black, repeating this performance from canvas to canvas. Has the result of this performance series turned it into something like a trademark, a signature style based in old Suprematist methodology, a non-dialectical negation that might once have been witty but ultimately only guarantees its own recognition? A gimmick? Has it replaced your work as a filmmaker and documentarian?
Jake Scharbach is a painter, photographer, and video artist living in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been included in the group shows It's a Small Small World at Family Business, the Fountain Art Fair, Recovery at Marketplace Gallery, Convergence at Lexington Avenue Armory, the ACE Film Festival, Chasama, and Click! at the Brooklyn Art Museum.