For the past 17 years, painter and graphic artist Jorgo Schaefer from Wuppertal, Germany has been an artist-in-residence at the New York Vision Festival, one of the world’s premier festival’s of avant-garde jazz, dance, poetry, film and visual art.
Steve Dalachinsky Can you explain a bit about your process and becoming an artist?
Jorgo Schaefer: My career as a professional artist started in 1970 at the Werkkunstschule (WKS, School of Applied Arts) in Wuppertal. At this time, the WKS was a highly regarded institution with a long tradition. It was not an art academy but arts were a key element. Artistic skills were taught as well as philosophy. Our freshman class consisted of 15 students and we were hanging out together day and night, influenced and inspired by the political and artistic movements of about 4 good years. Plus: Amsterdam was just around the corner...
There was a time, over a century ago, when the idea of a purely abstract painting, one which referenced only the means of its creation, was a far-off goal, a seemingly unattainable dream. In the following decades this idea was tested, tried, worked, and re-worked until the project engendered many and various permutations. Post-modern, appropriational, deconstructed -- the list of approaches to this idea is legion; yet there endures some compulsion, some drive that seems hardwired, to create paintings of pure visuality. Just when we think we have come to the end of this story we find new characters waiting in the wings, new gladiators wanting into the arena. In C. Michael Norton’s current exhibit at David&Schweitzer Contemporary we see that this project still has viability. Indeed, Norton seems to open new fields of exploration.
Dona Nelson is showing new paintings at Thomas Erben Gallery. There is no other artist in America that is a "modern painter" in so many different ways without losing her centre.
Trying to subvert its meaning seems to be part of the definition of what modern art is. There doesn't seem to be an accurate way to define an activity that is made up of a system or interelating systems that has occasional contradictions built into it, But art doesn't seem the worse for it. Modern painting in particular is like a series of interconnected temples where people are constantly entering and trying to knock down a load bearing pillar to see if it still stands or if it's now something else. It's quite often a sign that that particular approach is thriving.
The exhibition “Blurry Scene” presents atmospheric landscape works where wild pristine nature is shrouded in falling snow and low misty clouds hover over the horizon, establishing a sense of silence and solitude. While Lim’s touch with ink on paper is steeped in the tradition of the Asian masters, his art is linked as well to the landscape tradition of Western artists whose longing to be one with nature strikes a cord with Lim’s vision. In many cultures, mountains are said to represent the spiritual forces that inhabit the landscape where earth and heaven are believed to merge. Cézanne’s preeminent connection with the iconic Mont Sainte-Victoire parallels Lim’s attraction to the vertical sweep of the mountain in his snowy vista (“Dong River,” oriental ink mounted on rice paper with sealed white porcelain powder, 2016) that dwarfs a small figure by its majestic towering tiers.
I'm not going to write a bad review of Julian Schnabel's show of roses painted on smashed plates up at Pace Gallery. I don't believe it matters what I think of them. The parameters that embraced what was good and rebuffed what was bad are mostly no longer in place. The people who will buy these paintings for $900,000 are as far from me as the people who built the pyramids were from those inside them.
Dong Yeoun Lee's series of female portraits features standing and sitting young women in traditional Korean dress who display a range of technological devices. Although the scroll paintings elicit a definite Asian sensibility (oriental coloring on oriental paper), they are reminiscent of the art of Thomas Gainsborough who produced sympathetic portraits of female subjects, which penetrated their social "masks" to reveal the truth of their character. Lee’s works are shorn of site-specific ornamentation; they hone the essence of solitary or dual figures situated on empty formats, which accentuate their faces and poses.
The young women exist in isolation within the confines of the vertical design as they quietly assert their presence. The figure in "Clear Girl" displays a contemplative smile, mysterious and inward, not unlike a "Mona Lisa" smile in its enigmatic purity and elusiveness. The girl in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" (2012) dresses traditionally but her preoccupations appear to be thoroughly modern as she listens, presumably, to music with headsets, wears a digital watch and seems to be using a Bluetooth device with her cell phone. Her Hanbok garment signifies the ability to participate in the customs of historical eras as well as present day trends. The girl's modest reserved demeanor might suggest that she is "old-fashioned" apart from her display and use of contemporary devices. The subjects are out to communicate on whatever level they are functioning on at the present moment.
The communication tools infuse a narrative element into several of the works; the females in "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 1," and "Redefining Contemporary Beauty 5" convey the impression that they experience no strife or conflicts, but accept the intersection of past and present, navigating diverse cultural expectations in a hybrid life.
In modern idiom the term "limbo" refers to a condition of uncertainty, an intermediate stage in individuals’ lives and feelings. The word originates in the Christian tradition where the souls of unbaptized babies remain in a state of Limbo, separated through eternity from God due to "original sin." The show’'s name '"Limbo” brings focus to the significance and intentions of this exhibition of immersive large-scale photographic images curated by Thalia Vrachopoulos, Phd. and Suechung Koh. The Korean artist Kang, in collaboration with eminent actress and model Suae, creates photographs that submerge her in an enigmatic watery world where she strikes various poses wearing diverse garments. In some works, the perplexing iconography of tortuous underwater confinement yields inklings of contorted features that subtly suggest the torments of Hell itself. In one view the figure appears to dissolve into a funnel of black smoke as the "spirit" wafts upward, conceivably fated for an arduous end. While the show highlights the intimations of scenes where Suae rests sitting or lying inert in a pool, some of the works on view have political underpinnings as well.
Mark Sheinkman sets up his canvas with an oil and alkyd ground and polishes and reprimes it again, until it looks like Carrera marble, so that it can take the thin black oil paint. He wipes off and lays in. Many of the pieces deal with tropes of painting and design. Squiggles and spots, diamonds on what appears to be a spinning disk. Cross-hatching becoming unmoored and floats away, Some are pure muscle memory. Lines just moving and corresponding. Like the way Coltrane drops off the theme and into the solo on "Ascension," responding to a shifting background of changing modality with a thin free line twisting in the void.
Am I looking at an image of a dress on the ground covered with leaves? Is it from a lover’s tryst, or is something more sinister going on, and why would I think that?
On the whole, media and society have turned darker and more aggressive as we’ve moved into the 21st century. Being besieged with nominally factual content has constrained us all to a different type of viewing, more of a true-crime voyeurism than ever -- inundated with reality or its simulacrum on television and computer screens on a daily basis, we wonder how we ended up here. When did we start needing to see unedited live-steamed reality of life’s most horrific moments? The true-crime program America’s Most Wanted premiered in 1988. I remember it well because I was studying video and art history for my undergraduate degree at Tufts -- it was hard to ignore the fact that a social boundary had been crossed when watching videos of real criminals being hunted down for horrible crimes, as well as listening to their victims and families reliving events for an audience hungry for only its most salacious details.