Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The New Year

The crazy crush that I find myself in each December has passed. I've been considering what direction my work should take. I am very happy with my current paintings but have to realize that they have not gained an audience. I believe these painting will make more sense when shown together so I do plan on continuing the series and searching for a place to show them. From the beginning, I saw this series as a step towards abstraction and now I feel like I am ready to work non-objectively for the first time since completing a project during my first semester at the Corcoran.

I have also been planning a multimedia project for a couple of months. At this point, I am expecting the project to take around a year to come together, perhaps continuing indefinitely.

I spent much of the early part of 2011 working on Material World and only exhibited my work at Artomatic@Frederick. It still may be some time before I show again but I am looking forward to resetting the studio and getting down to work.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NYC Trip

I went up to NYC two weeks ago for a wine tasting event (day job) and haven't had the time to write up my thoughts. Before I get to the art, I thought I'd do a quick post on the wine and food aspect of the trip.

First the wine- Best Wine Saxum Syrah (I can see why Wine Spectator has this as their #1 wine last year.) Very close were two Aussie Shiraz- Two Hands Ares and Mollydooker Velvet Glove. The Cheval Blanc was my favorite Bordeaux followed closely by Lafite and Haut-Brion. The Bruno Giacosa Barolo was awesome. I made a point of tasting a number of Pinot Noirs since it is generally not my favorite varietal but the Kosta Brown was fantastic (could this be the wine of the year this year?) as well as the AP Vin, Bergstom and Beaux Freres. For California cab- my pick goes to Staglin. I was very intrigued with the blend that Brian Loring was pouring.

For food, I had a couple of burgers from places that had been suggested. HB Burgers was fine. Its the bar and grill version of Heartland Brewing. Beers were ok, burgers were fine, Nothing special. Tried the Shake Shack burger on Friday. Again, a weaker version of Five Guys with good crinkle cut fries. BTW- when you are going to a tasting expecting to taste 60-80 wines, you need protein before hand. Of course, I spit at the tastings, there is no other way to taste that many. When I organized my notes on Friday morning, I realized that I had tasted 85 wines Thursday night. Anyway, For lunch on Saturday, we met a friend in Chelsea were we had lunch at the Half King- better burger than either of the recommended burger places.

On Friday, we had lunch at a Bobby Flay restaurant, Cafe Americain which was recommended to us by some folks at Food & Wine Magazine. They know what they are talking about- one of the best steaks I've ever had. The spice rub worked perfectly with the house-made steak sauce. Since I believe I make a great steak, I don't usually order them out but since Flay is a grill kind of guy, I figured I'd give it a go- and there was the protein thing too.

On Saturday, we ended up on Mulberry Street at dinner time. We found a place that didn't seem like a tourist trap, Da Nico's. There was no slick guy trying to hustle us to a table. They appeared to have plenty of regulars that the owners were greeting. The food was very good if not great but we had a lovely time. A nice, completely unknown to me, Nero was recommended by the waiter.

Surprise food experience- truly kick ass meatballs in the MoMA cafe!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Favorites from Artomatic@Frederick

Here are a few of my favorites from Artomatic@Frederick. I wish I had taken pictures since I had some difficulty finding sites or images by a number of these artists. So, make sure you go and when your there, make a point of seeing these spaces.

Brain Slagle- I helped Brain and his father put together the base portion of Corn Crib. It really turned out beautifully.

Jeff and Kristin Bohlander- First I want to thank them for the additional reflected light. Jeff's collages and Kristin's mixed media sculptures are very different. Having spouse that is an artist, I think it is so interesting when couples make work very differently. I think it just has to be that way.

Jennifer Bernhard Hatfield- Quirky, wonderfully crafted pieces

Roberta Staat- I'm sucker for good drawing. Though there are a lot of cow artwork out there, I really like these for the technique.

Rhonda J Smith- Her prints with added collage and embroidered elements convey a mystical quality that touches on universal themes

Kristin Partridge-
Hard to not like something this lovely

Deborah Winram- Her keepsake piece is intriguing. It is made of small jars containing, for the most part, delicate reminders of the past.

Michael Winger- Excellent sculptures with wood, twine and other natural elements. I was particularly taken by the wall piece.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Whaddya Know?

I read an interesting piece at Wine Spectator Online today by writer Matt Kramer. He is a fascinating wine writer, though I don't always agree with him (well, not very often at all actually) but I find his positions to be thought provoking, challenging to my own ideas.

The article begins by quoting NYT writer, Eric Asimov on the confidence beer drinkers have about enjoying the beverage vs the anxiety wine consumers have about wine. Where it gets interesting is when Kramer brings in Adam Gopnik's critique of "elitist" wine writers. Kramer does a good job of taking down Asimov and Gopnik's arguments but the analogy of wine writing to contemporary art criticism got me thinking.

OK, so having a dual life as a wine educator/retailer and a contemporary artist that actually reads Artforum. I think that just might make me qualified to chime in on this one.

I believe it is true that you can gain more pleasure through knowledge. Here I'm talking about wine, art, music, poetry, etc. I get more out of wine now than I did 15 years ago. I also get more out of music since I've learned more about how music is constructed. But one thing I find is true, I don't usually decide something that I did not like initially all of the sudden becomes better because I came to understand it more.

Around the age of 13 or so, I first read T.S. Eliot. I'm not sure that I understood much of it but I was intrigued by it. Over the years, I kept coming back to his work and by my senior year of college, I had dove deep into his world, creating a suite of paintings based on his life and work. Clearly, my appreciation grew with knowledge but from the start, I knew his work was great.

So take wine, many of my colleagues prefer wines that some would define as sophisticated. These wines may have mineral or earthy characteristics. As a guy selling wine, this is how I describe them to customers. To friends, I would say they tasted like rocks and dirt. No amount of elevated understanding will cause me to like these flavors. I know people that do naturally prefer wines like these, but for the most part, wine geeks "grow" to like these wines.

I'm pretty sure I know what Paul McCarthy is doing but I find his work to be ugly and well, kind of stupid. It has been a long time since art has shocked me, so let's go with stupid. Likewise for Jeff Koons. Never once did I think these guys were making great art. Money- yes. Art-no. Somewhere some tastemakers decided this was good art and we are expected to fall in line. In art, as with wine, I believe in trusting yourself.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

At Once I Knew I Was Not Magnificent

This painting was begun at the same time as Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. Here, I returned to an image I have worked with in the past. Like a book or shoe, the design of a chair is has basically remained the same for centuries. This is actually my dining room chair. It is very solid (and heavy). Like the shoe, I set a single image against a extremely worked background. The chair is a strong image so it does not necessarily recede into the background here, rather it fits nicely into its surroundings.

The title comes from the song Holocene by Bon Iver. I believe I heard Justin Vernon say in an interview that the song, especially that line, was about a very bad night in a bar.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

This painting grew out of my Guston readings. Like Guston, I wanted to paint an object that is part of my everyday world. I saw this as a celebration of a thing that is well crafted and built to last. The design for a basic shoe has not changed for a long, long time. I was also striving for immediacy in getting the image down, using a projected image to get the placement just right. A funny thing happened as I worked on the piece. It became less about the shoe, or I should say less a celebration of this functional object. As in life, the shoe is begins to get lost in its surroundings. The large color fields, consisting of dozens of layers of paint, quickly draw a viewer's interest away from the shoe. I believe this painting will be a pivotal one. The push-pull between the mundane and sublime has opened up avenues of explorations.

Monday, September 26, 2011

For Guston (Books)

Last Spring, I spent a few weeks with my right arm in a sling then about 6 weeks of physical therapy. During this period, I spent a lot of time reading, especially the writings and statements of Philip Guston and his friend Morton Feldman. It was fascinating to note that Guston's views never changed much, even when he made the "shocking" break from abstraction to figuration. I was drawn to his use of a limited amount of everyday objects and their placement on the canvas. Watching film of Guston at work also inspired me to be more direct in my painting, getting it down quickly. Guston was described as the best read high school drop out ever. I decided to paint a stack of books since this was an image Guston painted over and over again, plus it is a nice play on my last name. Well, the direct thing didn't work out though this was record time for me at around one month to produce. I had already begun work on a couple of other paintings but I realized that I was being drawn to the background as much as to the pile of books. This was more obvious in the next couple of paintings where there is only a single object depicted. I am intrigued by having this celebration of everyday battle and perhaps lose to the empty background. This is more pronounced in the work that follows.

The Richter Resolution

A while back, art critic Jerry Saltz published The Richter Resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of projection in the production of art, especially painting. Luckily for me the moratorium had expired when I purchased a little pocket sized projector. My newest paintings are the first time I have ever used projection. I've never been morally opposed to its use. I enjoy good art regardless of how it is produced. I just don't think my previous work would have benefited from projection. In these new works, I'm not trying to achieve type of photo-realistic verisimilitude. The placement of the object on the canvas was critical to these pieces and projection allowed me to play with size and placement until I felt it was right. Much of the drawing was ignored as the paintings progressed. Here I show the projection, the drawn object and the finished piece Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. I would keep losing some of the details of the shoes as I would layer paint so I was constantly correcting the drawing. While I spent time and energy on the image, the painting is not about the shoe.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Getting It Back

Wow, I haven't posted since April. In this time I have been doing what jazz musicians would call "woodshedding." I've been reading a ton, looking at a lot of art. I've gone through about 5 weeks of physical therapy on my right arm after a few weeks in a sling. Things are much, much better but there are still issues. I try to keep my whining to a minimum since others, say, Chuck Close, have worked through far worse.

I really immersed myself in the world of Philip Guston and it is really showing in the work. Part of that world includes the work of the composer Morton Feldman. From Guston, I take the idea of working with the everyday to create enigmatic works. One thing I could not emulate is the immediacy of his work. He would paint and scrape and paint and scrape until the work would tell him that it was done. I started trying to free myself up in that manner but it just did not work for me. I laugh because I am making work that is directly in line with his but his own words would suggest that he would not like what I do.

Guston was particularly interested with placement of objects on the picture plane. This is a big concern for me and is deeply informed by the minimal works of Feldman, where very spare compositions are constructed with only a few carefully placed notes/sounds.

I've completed a painting and a drawing of books that take a cue from Guston. Books are a huge part of my life and use of them as subject matter is not intended to be a play on my last name. I own tons of books, read as much as possible, I worked in a book store in college and my wife worked in libraries for more than 15 years. I've also been working on shoes, particularly a pair of Doc Martens I wore when I worked in a retail store, on my feet for 50-60 hours a week. They were beautiful shoes that did not let me down. Guston obviously painted many shoes and I don't think our reasons are that far off in exploring this subject.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Art & Music

Having my arm in a sling has taken me out of the studio for a while. I've spent a lot of time reading and listening to music. Both activities are generating ideas, making me want to get to the studio even more.

I've been fascinated with Morton Feldman's music and how many of his ideas grew out of his associations with with members of the New York School. He was a very close friend of Philip Guston and composed two pieces titled For Philip Guston, the second one lasting over 4 hours. One of his first breaks in the music world came when Jackson Pollock asked him to compose the score for the famous short film about Pollock from the early 50's. Other works include a shorter pieces For Franz Kline and the gorgeous Rothko Chapel which was commissioned by the Menils to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the chapel in Houston. Feldman was committed to abstraction in music, painting and all other art forms. This commitment caused a premanent rift with Guston as the painter began to re-introduce objects into his work during his last decade.

Every artist I know is deeply interested in music though usually rock, not modern concert music. In writing the catalog Material World, I described one artist's work as sharing qualities with the musician Brian Eno. Since Eno is one of my all time favorite artists, this was a very positive remark.

A number of musicians are also serious visual artists. Eno has created numerous video and light installations. David Byrne of Talking Heads has worked in photography, film and installation. Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) quit music all together to concentrate on his painting for the last 20+ years of his life.

I'll be exploring the subject more thoroughly in future posts.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Well, its a game actually. Earlier today I was discussing with another artist about how our childhoods may have played a role in our work. I remembered a game my family had in the early 70's called Masterpiece. My memory was you bought and sold art- knowing that you were selling a forgery or a Masterpiece. What was really cool was the game came with a lot of postcard images of real art- in our case, the work all was part of the collection of the Chicago Institute (no I don't remember this fact, I just looked it up). Even at that early age, I was drawn to the contemporary works more than the old masters. I think it would be cool to have a 2011 version but the $1m top value would simply be the entry level work.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Material World is Winding Down

This great show has closed and tomorrow we take down the work. It is always a little sad to take down a good show and this is no exception. I've learned a lot through the process of putting this exhibit together. As in most endeavors, clear communication must be a key element if you are looking to be as successful as possible. This will be a top priority for me as I look to continue curating shows.

The three key retail elements - Location, Location and Location certainly came into play. I admit, I assumed we would get people to come out to Hyattsville to see a show with so many top DMV artists but attendance at the opening and the gallery talks was good but not great.

I put a lot of effort into documentation and the show will live on with through the online catalog.

I appreciate the efforts of all the artists (Marie Ringwald, Matthew Langley, Michael Janis, Katherine Mann, Sherill Anne Gross and J.T. Kirkland) along with the help of my wife Lori Anne (editing and great general support) and my daughter Heather for video duties. Thanks again to Jesse Cohen and Fine Arts Ventures/artdc for the opportunity to mount this fantastic show.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Online Catalog Now Available

With the show opening tomorrow, has posted the online catalog of the exhibition.

I'm extremely happy with how the catalog came out. We have some installation views along with statements from each artist and a short essay explaining the concept behind the show and how each artist fits the concept.

Even if I didn't have anything to do with the show, I certainly wouldn't want to miss it. We have work some of the area's finest artists included. I look forward to seeing everyone.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Material World is Up

Today, I met the artists at the gallery to hang the show. There are often unforeseen issues when you get to the actual point of hanging that sometimes require a last minute change which was the case today. We moved Michael Janis to a different wall because the movable wall was not going to allow enough space for the work. There is such depth to his pieces that viewers need to look from the sides as well as straight on. I knew the gallery was making some changes to the back room so I did not have a set plan for that area but the changes that were made did not effect the linear dimensions of hanging space but did allow for larger work than before. It turns out that we had just the right amount of art work with the addition of a piece by Peter Gordon which is part of the gallery's permanent collection. Here are some images of the installation.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In the Home Stretch

Serving as curator for Material World has been a rewarding experience. It's been close to twenty years since I've put a show like this together. Some things haven't changed much. Artists are typically eager to have their work shown, especially in a truly professional space alongside other quality artists. What has changed is the abundance of talent available and the speed of communication.

The DC area has a wealth of gifted artists working in very diverse ways. Given the title and theme of the show, I specifically sought to include artists working with different media who were not using standard techniques. With fragmentation of the area scene a common complaint, I was also interested showing artists of different generations who are at various points in their careers, even attempting to pull artists working in different parts of the region together. In meeting with the artists, I found that each was familiar with nearly all of the others in the show and some had actually worked together on projects. Perhaps the scene is not so fragmented after all.

The speed of communication actually presented challenges and this is the area in which I learned the most. It all comes down to timing. With the proliferation of art websites and the influence of blogs, much information needs to be held until very close to the event. Print media still requires plenty of lead-time. Hopefully we have navigated this well and there will be a strong turnout.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Material World- artdc gallery Hyattsville, MD March 2011

Things have quickly been falling into place for the show I am curating for the artdc gallery in Hyattsville. The show will be titled Material World and will focus on artists who use non-traditional materials or tradition materials in non-standard ways to produce their work.

I've been reading the writings, lectures, etc of Philip Guston over the past week or so and he alludes to a special thing that occurs when you're not sure how a work was made and that you stop concerning yourself with that. The finest work takes on a life of its own and its production eludes the viewer and sometimes it maker. The artists I have selected for this show make work that must be taken on its own terms. The work is not about the material or technique yet they are integral to our experience of the work. While the viewer will inevitably wonder how these pieces where made, with appreciation for the craft involved- in the end, we are left to contemplate these works on their own merits.