Art Review

Roz Chast: Theories of Everything... And Much, Much More

our_group_photograph.jpgRoz Chast is funny. Best known for her nearly 30-year stint with The New Yorker magazine, she is the quintessential observer. Let’s say she can best be described in artistic terms as a Situationalist. (You need those ists and isms.) What she takes from her everyday observations, she turns into crisp, clean extrapolations of a given situation, event, or moment, often filling that extrapolation with emphasizing details in curious locations. She can find, and express with wonderful words and images, the confounding and confusing to the commonest of experiences. What I find most appealing about her work is that it is sublimely approachable. Her drawn lines are expressive, yet forgiving. The expressions her subjects bare are subtle yet telling, and her compositions, which are straightforward and true, are filled with wit and humor from edge to edge. Read more »

Looking at Mr. Godbar

chocolatejesusSure signs of spring: The groundhog not being frightened by his shadow. Baseball standings showing the Royals, Devil Rays, and Pirates tied for first place. Articles about income tax. Marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies. And Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, denouncing another “attack” on Christianity. This year – and this is not an April Fool’s joke! – the last two are related, because Donohue’s mad about a new chocolate Easter treat, which he claims is “one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever.” He must have very delicate sensibilities and no sense of proportion whatsoever.

What is this horrible assault? Artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s “My Sweet Lord,” a six-foot tall, 200-pound depiction of the crucified Christ made out of milk chocolate. Read more »

Lauren Beck: Miasma from the Well of Loneliness

alien_probe.jpgThis show’s title tells you all you need to know about the almost polar opposite elements of morbidity and sexuality that run throughout the exhibition. But it is not so necessary to know or understand the artist’s specific intentions to sense the import of the art offered here. After all, work of this caliber will stand alone, separate from any overall narrative or intention.

Lauren Beck is a wizard with watercolor. Read more »

Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz: "Shelter," the verb

wise_heart.jpg Haviland Street Gallery is an oasis, a vintage home turned gallery, with its space originally designed for living, not looking. And I hesitate to say this, but all this welcoming homeyness makes the overall art experience here fun. We get so used to the white windowless boxes we call galleries that one can easily forget that art is being made in people's homes and in distinctive studios. For this exhibit, Gloria Santoyo Ruenitz offers a number of beautifully composed works that are wistful, celebratory, painterly and steeped in objects and symbolism. And, even though the potent content of these art works is rather specific and direct, as the exhibition's title suggests, it takes a good amount of time to fully appreciate these works. Read more »

Danilo Buccella: The Sound of Night - Vanina Holasek Gallery

theguest.jpgMilan-based artist Danilo Buccella's paintings feature young women frail, defiant, alone, and old beyond their years. They are iconic, beacons of a new age. At the risk of sounding like my parents, our children, especially the young woman I see in my daily life, are faced with nearly impossible physical goals. The visuals suggest a so-called beauty or desirability, even a cuteness which is relatively singular, and for most, unnatural, and just plain out of hand. Check out his painting on the left -- THE GUEST from 2005 (43 x 63 inches - oil on canvas). Read more »

Big Eyes And Babies: The West Coast Comes East

maldonadoTwo young artists from the west, Brandon Maldonado of New Mexico (born 1980) and Sarah Sohn of Los Angeles (born 1984), have landed at the Aidan Savoy Gallery on Stanton Street. I mention their youth because it is so much a part of how one takes them in—the fact that they are still in a formative phase. Maldonado’s work dominates the space, in part because his color palette is so much brighter and more intense than that of Sohn. His works—with their hot colors and bold, even surreal images—catch the eye and demand attention. Sohn’s work is paler, closer to monochromatic, and more aloof in its imagery.

At twenty-six, Maldonado is painting under a number of influences: Read more »

Doing Miami, Again

david_bates.jpgWell, it happened. It got even bigger, this Super Bowl of the art world. With some dozen and a half fairs, Miami in early December is Art World. And everyone was there, catching up with art esthetics, theories, and achievements that seemed endless and bright. I quickly became simultaneously entrenched and overwhelmed as I took in the first day and a half with friends Betty (art shipper and curator), Robert (gallerist and projects person), and Carl (artist and dealer). I found Carl the most fascinating, since this year was his first time seeing this fair extravaganza; despite Carl’s newness here, he expressed definite opinions and valuable insights as we bounced from booth to room, from fair to exhibition. Read more »

A Piece Apart: Group Show - Aidan Savoy Gallery

a_piece_apart.jpgIt’s always cool to find one of those 1980s, East Village throwback-type galleries. You know, the ones that favor a brutal sort of figurative art that kicks the cobwebs out of the old thinking process. If you are like me then head over to Aidan Savoy Gallery before it closes to catch this potent two-pronged exhibition curated by Jordin Isip titled A Piece Apart. The concept is to have dozens of artists submit one of their more familiar works, plus a separate pair of painted, sculpted, drawn or collaged eyes on five-inch square wood panels. Why eyes? The curator’s uncle runs an eye clinic in the Philippines, where he performs eye surgery on the poor and blind. Part of the monies made from the sale of the artful eyes will go to the clinic. Read more »

Richard Kalina: New Paintings and Watercolors - Lennon, Weinberg Gallery

portofcall.jpgI had the pleasure of meeting Richard Kalina at a WAX (Writers and Artists Exchange) Conference in San Antonio a while back. I knew his work from previous shows at Lennon/Weinberg, but was happy to hear his thoughts on contemporary art in Texas as he spoke to a gathered throng. He has a penetrating way about him. He gets inside and outside issues or concepts simultaneously, which makes sense, since that is the way his art appears to be designed. The fields he sometimes creates in his art move in and out, forward and back, like oscillating winds between city skyscrapers - an effect achieved through vibrating color and suggestive line. Read more »

Joyce Pensato: This Must Be The Place - Parker's Box Gallery

homer.jpg Walking into Joyce Pensato's one-person show is like stepping into someone else's fantasy where the inhabitants are kindly, funny, and sometimes hilarious. Pensato sets her sights on the likes of Donald Duck, Homer Simpson, Zozo (a 1950s politically correct monkey from France), and the ever-present Bunny. These figures are obviously friends of the artist - studio playmates who dance with her as she wields big strokes of drippy enamel.

Since she only uses black and white paint, there is an overwhelming sense of another age when the cartoon was in its infancy, and when the audience was fresh. Read more »

Eric Finzi: Slipping into the Liquid World of Lewis Carroll

readme.jpgWalking into the Aidan Savoy Gallery, one immediately notices the liquid quality of Eric Finzi's work: it shines, it glows, it flows. This impression is a product of both the medium -- epoxy resin chemically altered and blow-torched -- and the images. The show, entitled "Down the Rabbit Hole," is an homage of sorts to Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, as well as a photographer, mathematician, Anglican clergyman, and logician.

The 18 works in this show vary in size and style, with the larger paintings containing representational images and even portraits, while the smaller tend to abstraction. What unites them is Finzi's method, described by him as follows: "I basically work using the different polymerization times of the resin, depending upon the temperature of the resin, and waiting a certain amount of time before I put the paint in, before I pour it, which is why it has multiple layers." Read more »

Confrontation with Paradox: Liza Lou's Art - White Cube Gallery - London

lizalou.jpg"I grew up in a haze of ecstatic spiritual events," says Liza Lou. "We didn't need Santa Claus. That was kid's stuff. We had exorcisms." And so the adult Lou continues her art of exorcism, taking the form of incredible installations and mixed media sculptures. Her one-woman show in London at White Cube (a very hip gallery on Hoxton Square) is her first U.K. solo exhibition and contains seven very powerful works. A description of these pieces--mostly made of fiberglass and glass beads -- cannot really capture their effect in person because of the amazing detail and luminescence. In this show the subjects are mostly painful (martyrdom, imprisonment, execution, suicide) while the medium (the exquisite glass beadwork covering all surfaces) gives it a stunning glow. Liza Lou was born in 1969 to Pentecostal parents, both of whom had been artists in New York City, he a painter and she a singer, dancer, and actress. Read more »

Roy DeCarava: In Time - Jenkins Johnson Gallery, NYC

decarava.jpgWhy is Roy DeCarava not more well known? He shot his way into photographic history in the late 1940s, had his work shown in the landmark Family of Man exhibition at the MoMA in 1950, and, in 1952, became the first black American photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

In 1955 he collaborated with Langston Hughes on the award-winning bestseller The Sweet Flypaper of Life, has had three significant monographs published since then, and was the subject of a major MoMA retrospective a decade ago. And yet, why is a significant number of the image-loving public unaware of him?

We now have less reason to lament, thanks to “In Time,” the new exhibit of 96 black-and-white DeCarava prints at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery. The exhibit spans a half-century, but the majority of the photographs are from the 1950s and 1960s, when DeCarava did his finest work. Read more »

Tom Hunter: Beauty in Dark Moments - Yancy Richardson Gallery, NYC

livinginhell.jpgTom Hunter’s show, “Living in Hell and Other Stories, is brilliant: brilliant colors, brilliant concepts, brilliant craft. Seven huge (48 x 60 inch) Cibachrome prints fill the gallery walls. The subject is crime. What Hunter does is restage violent crimes or criminal environments reported in his local paper, the Hackney Gazette—often at the moment of discovery, combining theatrical tableaux with stunning composition. This British artist-photographer is known for a vision that captures contemporary social moments using historical painting references.

The large, glowing photos produce excitement in both their titillating subjects and their high-gloss immediacy. Read more »

Chip Kidd: Book One - Cooper Union, NYC

ckidd.jpgChip Kidd has designed many well-known and beautiful books, including his own very fine novel The Cheese Monkeys, which made a pretty good argument for the idea that graphic designers are the great unsung artists of the world. The collection of Kidd’s work that is now on display at the Cooper Union makes for even more compelling evidence. Throughout his career, Kidd has produced consistently strong designs, and when you have a chance to wander through a room full of his books, it’s striking to see how many of his images have seeped into our cultural consciousness, unheralded and unsung.

Kidd’s work demonstrates an apparently encyclopedic memory for images, and a genuine feel for the Read more »

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