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.
Pedro Barbeito's exhibition Pop Violence presents a series of work ranging from 2005 to the present. The paintings are based on images of war taken primarily from the world news media. For Barbeito, these works address the formative role of violence in contemporary life, from a political ethos driven by "terror" and deception, to the aesthetics of visual assault prevailing in popular culture. They draw upon the anxieties of an age when we are afforded, primarily through the Internet, unprecedented visual access to the violence of war and political strife. The complexity of the differing treatment of the various layers and textures, combined with new visuals—some of them computer-generated diagrams, pixilation, patterns, grids, ambiguous forms, confusing plays between foreground and background, surface and depth, fragmented compositions, and striking colors -- all contribute to works of uncanny beauty.
In a 1927 article on fetishism Sigmund Freud allowed that a person who erotically fixated on an inanimate object had found a substitute for their perceived missing phallus. He gave as an example a young male patient who had fetishized the "shine on the nose" of a woman. In fixating on this elusive phenomenon, the patient had chosen as his erotic object a condition that characterized eroticized elements in general; that is, they cannot actually be possessed and therefore are eternally elusive. The desired thing is ultimately ungraspable.
Call me Ishmael. Martin Kippenberger completed The Raft of the Medusa portfolio in 1996, one year before his untimely death at the age of 44. Martin Kippenberger: The Raft of the Medusa at Carolina Nitsch Project Room comprises the complete portfolio of fourteen lithographs, as well as a selection of drawings and collages related to the portfolio.
There is something inherently message-in-a-bottle-like about the printmaking process. Making serial imagery in multiples speaks to the frailty of art: it is the hope of the collector of a print edition that attrition in the series will result in one's ultimately owning that last one of its kind, turning the multiple into a unique work of art. Printmaking, more than any other artistic discipline, recognizes the impermanence of objects and the transitory nature of making art.