A few shows approaching the figure in various ways differing in color intonation, formal distribution, perspective, and subject matter. I struggle and am often overwhelmed by the lack of a unified movement in contemporary art but am also grateful that within a few visits I can experience a myriad form of expression and am able to attempt articulation of these moments with this blog. Thus far I’ve written about abstract works, photographic self-portraits, creepy sculptures, and a few other working ideas. Now I’d like to share the work of a few artists who have taken the figure and proceeded to make it personal, mystical, intimate, and isolating. Let’s start with Jonas Wood.
Jonas Wood, Downstairs Hallway, 2008, Oil on linen, 60 x 60 in
Wood’s paintings at Anton Kern gallery portrayed either one of three things: interior of a house, personal portraits, and basketball players. They are all very matter of fact, including the titles, as if to remind us, it is as it is, and nothing more. It looks crude and arbitrary at first sight but the intricacy sneaks up on you in the multiple perspective format, cubism superbly flattened and linearized.
Robin with Phoebe, 2008, oil on linen, 60 x 39 3/4 in
Nature and still life are incorporated as backdrops, hanging pictures, and interior space filler. The edges are sharp, the angles are slanted, the colors are full and opaque, shapes are chopped into separate entities, forcefully connected onto the canvas. It’s nostalgic, painfully personal, and undecidedly kitsch.
Pau 2, 2008, Gouache and colored pencil on paper
What really threw me off about this show was the jarring juxtaposition between feminine domesticity in the depiction of still lifes and interiors, and the intense expressive portraits of basketball players in action. What is the artist’s intention in revealing very personal interests, habits, and habitats to an audience? Perhaps a forced masculinity, or just near obsessive fandom? Such a stark difference in subject matter gives off an experimental air, playing with such a dichotomy of color, form and textures. Yet in all the paintings and drawings there is the same nervous angular razor sharp lines, the lively bright color palette, and compartmentalized shapes that hesitantly come together to complete a picture. I couldn’t help think about the distinct style that is DIY craft art, with the same shaky lines, cute, linear and sharp use of lines, and cartoonish gestures. But here it goes beyond formal delicacies and boggles my mind with all the contextual jargon emitted from each canvas. Although I am not a fan of the basketball player images, put together with the others brings a unified element to the show that is all quirk, awe, and spectacle.
There were two painting shows I saw where the artist depicted unearthly scenes in comic book fashion with saturated colors and fantasy (non)narrative: Nathan Redwood at Caren Golden Fine Art and Megan Burns at The Proposition were the artists and I would like to bring them together and look deeper to see what they’re all about.
There weren’t many paintings in the show at Proposition but enough were displayed to get a sense of the artist’s work. There were a few large scale paintings showing latex costumed women squirming half awake in some mode of activity whether spilling a tin of honey colored goo, a plop of defeat/victory on a bed of Kusama shaped orifices, or picking at a grass ceiling. The figure is based on the artist and all share similar super hero skin tight attire, erotic and pornographic gesture with faces isolated, obscured and confused. The paintings have a soft hazy glaze that appears seamless and artificially crafted, the figures generic and computerized, as if a prototype for a final fantasy game for the geeky nerds. But the intentions here are to glorify virago, a warrior woman of sorts with power and godly stamina. They look vulnerable and lucid but be careful, these supple voluptuous fighters will entice and slice you.
Nathan Redwood, Carried Away, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 76 x 70 in
Nathan Redwood similarly works in a fantasy non-narrative level, with more surreal and landscaped repertoire mixed in with that same comic book shade of solid form and vibrant color. What is unique in his paintings are the freedom with which he explores mark making, using brushes and hands and whatever may be lying around to create a range of layered swirls, scrapes, and a precise execution of random objects that accumulate and interact on the surface of the plane to our curious amusement.
Drift, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 35 x 30 in
In paintings such as Drift shown above, there is not a single empty space to be shown, each and every swirl overwhelmingly consume whatever space is not occupied by the odd object concoctions. There is an obsessive elements to this mark making ritual, and the resulting landscape steps right out of a dream and leaves you in a mystified trance that is irresolute and undefinable. I especially love the unlikely match between the abstract swirls and molds and the very formulated and articulately executed forms ranging from bubbles, to chairs, to sneakers and plungers, all supported and supporting to create a balancing scheme that is Dali meets Fischli & Weiss meets comics. The colors are rich, dark, and tan signaling a disturbed subconscious might make you wonder, is this a dream?
Two artists that sing a different voice from the above mentioned are Havard Homstvedt and Paul P. I saw their show at Perry Rubenstein and Daniel Reich respectively and noticed a similar interest in depicting a sense of sublime nostalgia, hazy distant memories, sentimental subtlety and deliberate quietude.
Paul P., Untitled, 2008, watercolor on paper, 11.8 x 6.1 in
Daniel Reich is a cozy gallery and served as the perfect environment for these small scale drawings and paintings, hung in zig zag un-uniform salon style installation providing fluidity and excitement to a series that might come off as overtly somber and monotonous at first glance. The artist is well known for infusing 70’s pornographic images of gay men with traditional romanticist landscapes that blur notions of narrative or subjective clarity.
Untitled, 2007, pastel on paper, 12.8 x 7.48 in
There is a silence and oppressed sexuality to the images, spurred on by the shadowy illuminations of the figures whose faces are obscured into the background. Delicacy and elegance resonates beside forlorn and melancholic and blends together to create these pesudo ominous statuesque figures. This fragile balance is what makes these works grappling, it’s a struggle whether or not to take it too seriously or as light hearted.
Havard Homstvedt, Procession, 2008, oil on canvas over board, 72 x 112 in (two panels)
In a similar vein, Homstvedt’s paintings linger along obscurity and sensuous anonymity of the figures in the canvas, but replaces sentimental sexuality with ritualistic oddities, looming monumentality, and silenced luminosity. The ghostly presence of the figures, the sculptures and busts beckon you to enter and share their world of dreamy wonder and fairy tale kingdoms for depressed adults.
Linnea, 2008, painted and patinated bronze, 40.55 x 11.61 x 9.06 in
There is a hidden humor and subtle ridiculousness in the tall high hat cone head gear these busts adorn, leaving room for a raised eyebrow and a chuckle for the viewer. These life size busts depict figures, women and men, with somber features, either with eyes closed or faces covered, in a state of frozen meditation and self-glorification. There is an even flow and balance between teh paintings and sculptures, where the flat wind pane-esque full length figure sculpture with arm reaching out is two dimensionalized corresponding to say, a drawing incorporating a high hatted bust into the picture, a giant amongst the little people, its sculptural monumentality out to menace. There is a undeclarative narrative to these works leaving interpretations open. Go ahead, peer through the sculptures, into their closed eyes, laugh at their head gear, cry with the lone child, and proceed with the procession.