Saturday, May 24, 2014

So, What Happened in Reykjakik a Year Ago April?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An interesting blog post by Altoon Sultan about the quality and usage of paint ---

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amy Hutcheson - Playhouse on the Square, 66 Cooper Street, Memphis, Tennessee

A conversation with Memphis artist Amy Hutcheson about her forthcoming exhibition, "Transformation" at Playhouse on the Square.

DH: You have an upcoming exhibition at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, Tennessee. When does the show open?   How many pieces?

AH: It's a beautiful new space. The show goes up September 17 and the opening reception is September 25 from 4-6 pm. The show runs through November 7. I hope everyone comes.

I am working on having 20-30 drawings/paintings for this exhibition.  The work is combination of graphite, ink and gesso on paper.

I love drawing and so this work is a natural progression for me. I sat back recently (on the advice of Fred Burton my friend and professor from college) and took inventory of the work I have done in the past 5 years.  I listed what I liked and didn't like about each series, both process and finished product. It always came back to the drawing and the work within the lines.  So I took all these thoughts and pulled them together and tried to develop a synchronicity. I think it works quite well.  This is the most personal work I have ever created.

DH: You seem to be creating in an interesting place that balances between abstraction and representation.  Almost as though the viewer is looking through several frames of film that have been stacked.  In fact, these pieces do feel cinematic.  Are there individual inspirations for the different pieces or maybe is this series a storyline with a beginning and end - or does each piece stand alone?

AH: I think it's a bit of both.  I think all work tells a story about the artist.  Sometimes it much more obvious to the viewer and other times it is only there for the artist.  I look back at work and it's like a photo album of memories for me.  Probably like how some parents look back at their child's first day of school.  I can tell you what music I was listening to, what was happening in my life when I look back at different pieces I have created.

This work is really about breaking down the obvious elements of the figure and reconstructing them in a way that creates something totally different.  I work from a reference photo for the initial drawing, but then never look at the reference again so that the image becomes totally different.  I erase and redraw and block areas out with powdered graphite, always trying to not consider the initial image and just let what I see develop.  Like a puzzle with infinite solutions.  These are all pretty large scale drawings and I really like the physical aspect of working large and just getting so lost in the work.  It overtakes you a bit.

DH: I agree with you, these pieces clearly appear more personal, there seems to be more thoughtfulness and intuition in them, than what I know of your previous work. Is it the choice of imagery in these pieces that makes it so?  Or perhaps it might be more correct to say that you are inviting the viewer to the conversation?  You seem to be interacting with the work rather than making observations.  These pieces feel vulnerable with secrets and privacies still to explore. Like the two sides of being overtaken by the work - sometimes a pleasure and sometimes a curse?

AH: Intuition is a great way to describe how it comes to me.  The image of the body is very appealing to me both in the linear aspect but also in the way certain parts of the body pique the interest of the viewer.  Letting the viewer fill in the blanks of what is going on is very fascinating to me. I think these really pull you, or at least that is my hope, and force you to discover the work over and over.

The body for me has always held allure when it comes to drawing and painting.  The reason I haven't worked with it in so long is that I couldn't find a way to really approach it in a way that was both challenging and satisfying to me.  This work does that for me in so many ways.  For instance, the initial juxtaposition of the figures to create a spacial hierarchy then letting go and renegotiating the entire piece over and over.

So yes it's a blessing and a curse I suppose...this work in a way does show a vulnerable side of me, but a very feminine side.  I think we live in a time right now where there is such a blur between the lines of feminine and masculine in our daily roles.  So when a women creates or does something described as feminine it can be viewed as weak perhaps, or, I don't know, maybe vulnerable is a better term.  I think though there is still a need for some balance in our gender roles...and vulnerable may not be so bad.

DH: Well, that can be said about a man's work, too - that vulnerable can be viewed as weak. When actually it takes considerable inner strength to get to that place where one can make art in that way.

You said these are large pieces - like how large?

AH: These are around 37 inches by 50 inches and 50 inches by 50 inches. 

DH: Thanks for the conversation.

AH: Thank you for your interest in me and my work.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bryan Blankenship at Gallery 56

2256 Central Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104
July 8 - 31, 2011

An interview with Bryan Blankenship conducted by Memphis artist Dwayne Butcher.

Dwayne Butcher: Can you talk about your upcoming exhibition "Metes and Bounds"?
Bryan Blankenship: Metes and Bounds is a centuries old English system of describing general boundries of land parcels utilizing a landmark as a starting point.  The system was brought to
the United States and is still in use in a few states today. I used the title of this system as a jumping-off point for creating the works in this exhibition. Since my youth I have been fascinated by aerial views of landmasses. I am particularly interested in the manner in which the three-dimensional environment we inhabit is visually flattened and simplified when viewed from above. I like to take these common images and translate them into uncommon works utilizing actual and implied textures enhanced by diverse color schemes. The pieces really don’t have much to do with documenting a place as much as representing the essence of a specific location that I have both visited on the ground and seen in an aerial image.

DB: How do you come up with the landscape imagery you use in these pieces? Are these places you want to travel to or have visited?
BB: Some of the pieces explicitly describe a certain locale or place I have visited, and some are just implicitly referential of generic aerial imagery. With the latter I feel more freedom to take liberties with the overall shapes and color schemes.

DB: Do you see these pieces more as painting or sculpture? Do you generally like to blur the lines between mediums? Or is that even a part of it?
BB: I see them more as two-dimensional works inhabiting some sculptural characteristics. I don’t consciously think about blurring the lines between mediums as much as I like the idea of redefining mediums. Many individuals that have seen pieces similar to the works in this exhibition have thought that the Masonite shapes were ceramic. I always assume they made that decision because they know me as a ceramic artist.

DB: How do you work between this series and the works that you showed at MCA's "Local Flavor" exhibition?
BB: The works in “Local Flavors” were much more revealing of my self-deprecating narrative. The works in “Metes & Bounds” truly are the eye candy that I was referring to in “Eye Candy” at the MCA show!

DB: Who are some of artist influences for this series?
BB: Sean Scully, Richard Schur, Bruce Robbins, Richard Diebenkorn.

DB: You are known as one of the best-known potters in the region, does the ceramic work influence this work or vice versa?
BB: I started my art career in ceramics and I have always believed that working with a material as unforgiving as clay has taught me a great deal about patience, perseverance, and craftsmanship. There are a lot of similarities in process between these works and making pottery.

DB: Does working as the 3-D technician for the U of M interfere with your studio time? Is it hard to work in the studio after helping people in a wood shop all day?
BB: The only negative aspect of having my studio at the University is that students are not always aware that evenings are my studio time and they will call on me to help them or need a tool repaired etc. With that one exception the energy of working amongst developing artists is quite refreshing and enlightening at times.

DB: What other exhibitions or events are upcoming?
BB: As always I will be at the Cooper Young Festival in September, and the Pink Palace Crafts Fair in October. In January I will be participating in a ceramics show at the Memphis Jewish Community Center’s Shainberg Gallery with Bill Rowe and Robert McCarroll.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kristine Rippel, 'Ink in the Veins'

Plaza Gallery
68 Saint Francis Plaza
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
through July 24, 2011

A little Q&A with the artist:

DH: Tell me about your choice of materials and your thoughts on installation art.
KR:  I enjoy giving people an art experience, hence my focus on/in installation art. It's about working on a grand scale and being overtaken by the piece: for me and the viewer.  I elected to use blue newspaper. Blue is a powerful color, everyone relates to blue. Newspaper because it was the best option for adhesive quality. 

DH: How is the paper adhered?
KR: Rubber cement.

DH: The little bits of non-'color field' materials worked into the piece give me a sense of a life getting 'papered over', if you will. How did you make those selections?
KR: The blue field needed some movement: pieces of color. Much like a painter knows where their painting needs color to move the viewer through the painting. 

DH: Did you anticipate the wonderful impact on the piece from the curvature of the walls?
KR:  The definition of the curvature of the wall was totally unexpected but truly loved. The piece truly became part of the architecture. The blue defines the weight of the wall and gives the illusion that it's falling. A 3d painting of the wall...

DH: The reaction from your viewers at the opening reception?
KR: At the opening I was engaging in fabulous discussions over it: much about peoples "experience" with it. How it made them feel. What they would like to do to the piece, etc. Really exciting!

DH: Your opinion of the state of contemporary art in Taos?
KR: Not enough contemporary art being shown in Taos!!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Two Rivers

David Hinske at Harrington-Brown Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee
May 6 - May 31, 2011
by Carol Knowles

In Harrington Brown's current exhibition, "Two Rivers," the swatches of color on the surfaces of David Hinske's paintings look as shot through with light as the Taos home in which he works. The rhythms of Hinske's brushstrokes — by turns staccato and fluid, impastoed and full-throated — mirror improvisations of the jazz music playing in the background.

basil (in a can by the window), 40"x40", oil on canvas

In works like In the KitchenDigging in the Pantry, and Basil (In a Can by the Window), what looks abstract is most real for this painter/chef/musician who multi-tasks. Hands on the meal prep as well as on his brushes — slathering oils onto canvases as high-key as the notes of a sax, pulling sprigs of fresh herbs from orange-lipped canisters, and peeling/slicing/dicing tomatoes and yellow peppers for the soup simmering in a kitchen that also serves as one of Hinske's studio spaces: Everything is in motion.

David Hinske responds:
I do, in fact, believe that the participation in the arts crosses over into other arts and more generally into the artist's life overall.  Participating in the crafting of food and music undoubtedly plays a part in the construction of my paintings, adding flavors and harmonies that would've been otherwise undiscovered.  There are places of bliss in all of those things for me and they serve to distinguish the paintings rather than dilute them.  While the paintings themselves appear immediate and simple, that is a thoughtful and deliberate choice I've made.  Further consideration, I believe, will reveal a deeper understanding of the intimate communication I am intending with the viewer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Slice of Berlin in New York

by Natalie Hegert

For a real slice of graffiti history (and history history) a few blocks away from MoMA you can find a literal slice of the Berlin Wall.  Situated in the courtyard of 520 Madison, this segment of the famous division between East and West was painted by artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny circa 1984.  The wall is now divided and placed out of context, but the graffiti stands as a testament for the transformative power of art over symbols of authority and political repression.

Friday, March 11, 2011

These Two Pages of My Sketchbook Are Haunted

by the artist known as '14'

Much amusement can be derived from flipping through the pages of high society magazines and checking out the photos of wealthy people posing at various balls and charity fundraising events. Many appear stiff and taut with freakish cosmetic surgery, overly flashy with blinding white teeth, shiny couture and sparkling jewels - I just love it.  Palm Springs Life is probably the best publication on the newsstand to view these glamourous spectacles and while flipping through it a few months ago, I came upon a photo of Tom Bosley and his lovely wife holding a white fluffy little dog. They seemed so happy and yet both their hands were twisted and knotty with arthritis. There was something so beautiful and scary about the image, that I started a rough sketch right there in the bookstore and later came home to finish it up. While working on it, I heard that Tom Bosley had passed (RIP) and I suddenly got the creeps. Later, a friend sent me a society photo from a hoity-toity event in Houston. There was something creepy about the people posing in it, as though they had recently emerged from an long sleep in the cold dark basement of their drafty cavernous castle and flew to the party inside a swarm of shrieking vampire bats as thunderstorms raged through the night.  I'm sure they're nice people, but it's fun to let the imagination run wild. That being said, I formally declare these two pages of my sketchbook to be haunted.  Medium: graphite, ink, marker and ectoplasm.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, Oil on canvas, 30x60 inches. Art Institute of Chicago

Robert J. Hughes, writer living in New York and Paris

Even the everyday, of course, can be monumental. At the Art Institute of Chicago hangs the almost-mythic Nighthawks. This is Edward Hopper's iconic and immense painting of three patrons and a counterman seen in artificial yellow light in a diner in the shadowed emptiness of a summery New York night. I did not know from reproductions how large this painting was, but on seeing it for the first time in person, I was struck by its immensity and how fresh and awe-inspiring the original would be.

t’s a rare painting that conjures stillness – Monet's water lily paintings, perhaps, manage it as well – though for Hopper, the color of stillness was somehow an essential part of his palette.
Where the sculptors of the Laocoön captured the doom of man somehow offending the gods – don't mess with destiny – and rendered the mythic palpably human (if heroic in scale), Hopper portrayed the silent figures of daily life, yet somehow imbued them with the dignity, the grace, even, of something mythic in our nature. They may not have to worry about the wrath of gods, and perhaps must contend instead with the wayward distances of others, but they sit and chat as if they were somehow noble still, seated far from Olympus and yet, because of Hopper, nevertheless near to eternity.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teresita Fernandez at Galerie Almine Rech

19 rue Saintonge, Paris, France
through December 18th

by Robert J. Hughes

How light plays upon the world, upon the landscape, how the weather plays upon our vision are all preoccupations for the painter. As Monet said to Sacha Guitry when the great painter was very old and the great playwright very young, "Without sun, there is no Monet."
Sculptors, too, consider the fall of light and shadow on forms in space. Teresita Fernàndez, an American artist known for her almost environmental sculptures, which use light and shapes – enclosed circles, open stairs – to promote a sense of looking at the world from different angles and perspectives, offers the environment of the darkened seaside in a series of new works.

In her first exhibition at Almine Rech Gallery in Paris, Fernàndez combines the three-dimensional sculptural with the flat plane of the pictorial. Most of the works here are beautiful, shadowy depictions of water after dark. It is difficult to depict the shimmering evanescence of water at any time of day, but Fernàndez gives the viewer a view of the expansive horizon under a starlight sky, the stipples of rippling moonbeams creating a ghostly reverie of nighttime waters.
"Nocturnal (Horizon Line)," graphite on panel, shows the sweep of black sea stretching outward, invitingly. Moving closer in, a viewer can see the sculptural ridges of the graphite, the "pour" of the waves and reflected light. The graphite provides a real sense of water, even in the very near distance, and you can stand before even a small panel and get a sense of the wide eternal sea, with all of its unruly cinematic power.
Other works use small cut cubes of mirrored glass, arranged in sprays, to give a sense of energy in the very air – looking as an act of exultation. Fernàndez also uses polished precision-cut steel to similar effect, crafting representations of nature with machined metals, as in "Mirror – Terllis," which looks like an arbor frozen mid-growth, but still, because of its reflective surfaces, alive to the gleaming day.
What Fernàndez has done here is something new: she's created sculptural landscapes that broaden the canvas, the plane of the wall, into three-dimensional space. Others have done this before, of course, such as Frank Stella. But Fernàndez has created still-life sculptures of vegetation of cold steel and glass that are at once sculpture and painting; you don't feel fooled – these aren't the very representations of nature of a trompe l'oeil, but reflections of reality, a mirror of what our mind might remember about a moonlight ocean, a trellis of leaves, a spray of dappled leaves, a memory etched in graphite, steel or glass of what we believed we saw.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Samuel Richardot at Balice Hertling Gallery

47 rue Ramponeau, 75020 Paris, France
October 29 - December 10, 2010

by Robert J. Hughes

The act of looking at art involves not only concentration but release.
At a new show of paintings by Samuel Richardot at Balice Hertling in Paris, the squiggles, the abstract or the organic shapes on the canvases are like guideposts to perception as an act of meditative abandon.
In a large untitled painting that takes up almost an entire wall, the white canvas holds four sorts of reference points that are outlines of everyday objects – two circles in green that could be the ghost of a protractor, two red zygotes that could be the afterimage of calla lilies, a blackish sausage-like shape that suggests the twisted anthropomorphic shape of a balloon animal. But they're also mere shapes themselves. The point is that when you look at the painting, as you try to resolve the forms into something familiar, you begin to let go of the reality associated with that form and allow observing itself to take over; you are in the moment, rather than the interpretation of that moment.
Smaller paintings that ring the other walls of the space use those random elements of organic forms – triangles, circles, lines that could be everyday items or body parts – to draw you closer, then to push you back. The pleasure of Richardot's paintings isn't in their detail – though you do find yourself moving in to see how the paint saturates the canvas, or where a bit of something that seems extraneous, like a snippet of tape, adheres to the work – but in determining that details aren't essential to comprehension. And that comprehension isn't essential to understanding. That is, you don't ask, "what does it mean," but rather, "what am I not seeing," which is more about your own sense of reality rather than whatever real or unreal world a painting creates.

This is refreshing in an age of agitprop art, where once you get the point – usually a sarcasm or easy irony – the work itself holds little interest. Grand statements tend to dilute quickly in the swirling waters of contemporary communication. But with Richardot's paintings, you settle into a meditative calm. Several of the works have the contemplative allure of Agnes Martin paintings, with their repetition of soft pencil lines over a white background, like a visual koan that asks the viewer to understand through intuition. Others evoke, however glancingly, such different abstract artists as Kenneth Noland – whose paintings vibrated with brilliantly colored geometric forms – or even some of Piet Mondrian's quieter theosophical explorations of the meaning of life through his paintings' rectilinear distillation of the everyday.
Richardot's paintings give you the freedom to observe, to wonder, even. They hold back and beckon, they promise intimacy and calm, while so many other contemporary paintings are screaming "look at me."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Art, artifacts and excess collide in a combustible energy exhibit at Denver's MCA

by Kyle MacMillan
Denver Post
August 6, 2010

With words and phrases like "sustainability," "environmentally conscious" and "carbon-neutral" all the buzz these days, most exhibitions that have anything do with energy inevitably deal with the themes of conservation and new technologies.
But an intriguing, provocative and potentially controversial show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver takes a decidedly different tack — "Energy Effects: Art and Artifacts From the Landscape of Glorious Excess."

As its evocative title suggests, it explores and, in some ways, celebrates excess energy in an array of guises, from the enthusiasm of a rock-concert mosh pit to the destructive power in a nuclear bomb.

"For millennia, civilizations have been defined by their use of this excess, uses that span a spectrum from war to art," writes co-curator Paul Andersen.  "Our civilization also receives more energy than we need . . . and like those civilizations before us, our identity is more closely linked to how we choose to spend that energy than how we save it."

While probing these issues, "Energy Effects" also raises fascinating questions about the nature of contemporary art, the function of art exhibitions and the role of art museums in the 21st century.

Many of the objects in this exhibition are artworks by almost any conventional definition of the term, even if they stretch the boundaries of traditional forms.  A good example is "Reg," an imposing 6-by-9-by-8-foot block of knotted climbing rope by New York artist Orly Genger. Set at an angle so that it blocks a wide corridor, it challenges viewer perceptions of space and scale.

But what are we to make of "Chaussures" (1991-present), a display of more than 125 pairs of sandals crafted and worn by Denver artist Viviane Le Courtois over nearly two decades — the history of each carefully documented?

As unexpected as it is to see these shoes hung along the exterior walls of the museum's second floor, there is nothing especially aesthetic about them. This undertaking is as much anthropological as artistic.

And as the exhibit's title makes clear, several of the show's offerings are artifacts and not art, however visually compelling they might be. Most notable are a Titan IV Stage II rocket engine and two B61 thermonuclear bomb casings on loan from the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

Art-museum exhibitions of the past were artist-driven, focused primarily on movements, influences and styles. But in today's art world, concept trumps all, and that is certainly true at the MCA Denver.  Since becoming director of the institution in March 2009, Adam Lerner has made ideas — in this case, the notion of excess energy — the driving force of the museum's offerings, with artworks, artifacts and whatever else playing a supporting role. 

It's not surprising, then, that "Energy Effects" would not be at all out of place at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science or a similar organization.

An unvoiced but certainly evident theme of this exhibition is obsessive-compulsiveness, one of the extremes that drives many human pursuits, especially art. How else to explain the undersized and oversized work of Willard Wigan of London and Jim Sanborn of Washington, D.C.?

Wigan invests an enormous amount of energy to create his quirky micro-sculptures. His "Statue of Liberty in the Eye of a Needle" is so tiny that it has to be viewed through a microscope.

In "Terrestial Physics," Sanborn spent three years meticulously re-creating the first particle accelerator to split uranium atoms in 1939 — a room-size group of oddly old-fashioned machines that are at once alluring and disturbing.
Whatever else can be said about "Energy Effects," it is the most thematically and visually cohesive exhibition to be presented at the MCA Denver since the 2007 opening of its first permanent home in the Central Platte Valley.

The building was designed with five discrete main galleries that were intended to function essentially autonomously — a concept that never made much sense.  Lerner has urgently sought to make the building work as an integral whole, and this exhibition fulfills that goal for the first time, with pieces in the atrium and corridors that tie everything together and achieve a continuous flow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Can't Fall Off the Floor

Linda Warren Gallery
1052 W. Fulton Market St., Chicago, IL 60607
June 25, 2010 - August 21, 2010
by Mia DiMeo, August 16, 2010

“Sit down, this may take a while,” warns a small string of words on YOU CAN'T FALL OFF THE FLOOR, a 14-foot long installation work that lends its title to Lora Fosberg’s third solo show at the Linda Warren Gallery.
It can be difficult to “read” art in a gallery for more than few minutes, too many words with too much content can drown the visual impact of a piece of art. But Fosberg’s text-heavy collage pieces are an exception. More organized than chaotic, they maintain a powerful aesthetic effect that keeps me reading. True, it might take a while, but I can’t get enough of Fosberg’s collection of quips and musings, where the text is part of the visual impact. 

Laura Fosberg. YOU CAN'T FALL OFF THE FLOOR. 2010. Gouache and paper mounted directly on the wall.  Image used by permission of Linda Warren Gallery.
YOU CAN'T FALL OFF THE FLOOR takes the form of a monumental temple frieze of amassed phrases with a sprinkling of images, the lines plucked from life and deftly scripted in gouache on handmade paper. Fosberg individually applies each small strip of paper to the wall, changing the composition and adding new phrases with each installation. In fact, when she remakes the piece for Grand Rapid’s ARTPRIZE competition in September, it will double in size.
Cliché, proverbial, tongue-in-cheek, pessimistic, optimistic, matter-of-fact, ironic, romantic, broken-hearted; Fosberg regurgitates phrases from the omnipresent media, as well as notes from random life experiences. She told me when I spoke with her last year that her text works are a portrait “from the air of now… a snippet of time through the lens of me.”
Personal as that may sound, I think her work is attractive to a wide audience because of its emotional universality and reoccurring self-deprecating humor.  Like a nudge from a friend at a bar, I’m reminded of a simple truth in large blue letters, “Desperate is not a sexual preference.” Sure, it’s laughable, but realizations like this one, in a world of information overload, are what form the core of Fosberg’s work.

The freshest of Fosberg’s work are three collaborative pieces with Liza Berkoff; black and white photos of quiet urban landscapes that could be nowhere or anywhere, sharply interrupted by Fosberg’s paper and gouache bands of color. InYes Can Be Such a Surprise a rainbow searchlight seems to explode from the head of a slouched homeless man.DARE TO FAIL, is another altered city scene, where billboards are replaced with Fosberg’s painted slogans—what strikes me as campy inspirational phrases like “Believe in Believing,” that read as if they are pulled from posters in a high school guidance office.  Not that this is a bad thing—it’s good to see some sweet mixed in with all of Fosberg’s tartness.
In fact, the artist loves the environment as much as she loves phrases. The show includes a body of linocuts that are about destruction of nature, bulldozers mauling forests; destruction by nature, a giant cyclone full of cartoonish trees, furniture, and people; and a general celebration of nature, cutesy summer camp-like scenes in the woods, and a lone figure in a canoe. They have an activist bend with the irony that Fosberg excels at, but stay far away from becoming preachy hippy art.
Before I leave the gallery I stop in front of prints of tall tree trunks that dominate the wall, as close to life-sized as Fosberg can get in the space.  Charming with their individual knots and grain, each “tree” is printed and collaged on earthtoned canvas to create a small environment in the gallery, showing Fosberg’s skill as a printmaker and her knack for powerful presentation. The roots coming out of the ground look a bit like legs, and a certain melancholy falls over  me when I read the title, Right Before No More. Fosberg doesn’t do coy, not even with a simple image of a row of tree trunks, and it consistently works for her.

Monday, July 19, 2010

From a Whisper to a Scream: Following Yoko Ono’s Instructions

by Jason Persse,  INSIDE/OUT a MOMA/PS1 blog
July 14, 2010

I first heard about Yoko Ono’s so-called “instruction pieces” as a high school student, when a friend told me the (possibly apocryphal, certainly embellished) story of Ono’s first meeting with John Lennon. History according to the poorly fact-checked lunchtime ramblings of rock ‘n’ roll–obsessed seventeen-year-olds: During a visit to London’s Indica Gallery in 1966, Lennon encountered Ono’s Ceiling Painting. Climbing to the top of a tall, white ladder, he used a magnifying glass dangling from a thread to read a message printed in tiny letters on the ceiling: “YES.” Profoundly moved by the work’s unalloyed positivity, he demanded to meet the artist right away.
That story probably rates a 40% score on the Historical Accuracy Meter, but the (surprisingly spot-on) description of Ceiling Painting captured my imagination. I was captivated by Ono’s notional art—especially her “instruction pieces,” which she describes as “paintings to be constructed in your head”—because it placed the onus of creation squarely on the “spectator.” So when I heard that some of Ono’s participatory pieces would be included in MoMA’s Contemporary Art from the Collection exhibition, I got ready to shoulder the spectator’s burden and help create some art.
I started in the Sculpture Garden with Wish Tree for MoMA. “Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of the wish tree. Ask your friend to do the same. Keep wishing.” No sweat! I added my wish to the hundreds of cards already hanging from the tree. (I would tell you what I wished for, but then I’d have to kill you.)
Next up was Whisper Piece, a series of sixteen instructions (like “Breathe heavily,” or “Smell the summer”) and affirmations (“You are beautiful,” for example) that Ono scrawled on the walls—and, in one case, the floor—of the second-floor Contemporary Galleries. (At one point a little girl asked me what I was doing squinting into a corner of the gallery, so I told her she had to find and follow the instructions, too. You can imagine my relief when I reached the exit without encountering instructions to steal a painting.) Following what few explicit instructions there were was no problem, and being told repeatedly that I was beautiful and loved did wonders for my self-esteem. The hard part was locating all sixteen tiny whispers.
Finally I returned to the Museum’s grand Marron Atrium, which currently contains Ono’s 1961 “instruction painting” Voice Piece for Soprano—”Scream. 1. against the wind 2. against the wall 3. against the sky”—along with a microphone and a pair of very loud speakers. I stared at the microphone for a while as a perfectly reasonable voice in my head informed me that I would not, under any circumstances, make a loud noise in a museum. Fifteen long minutes later, after watching several brave souls roar their hearts out in defiance of all propriety, I stepped up to the mic and let out a trio of wavering screams, each slightly less pathetic than the last.
And then it was over. Yoko and I had done it! Together we’d created a work of exhilarating, defiant, liberating art that turned heads, startled passersby, and covered me in a fine sheen of flop sweat. Besides, who hasn’t always wanted to let out a good scream at the office?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Almost Eden - David Hinske at Art Under a Hot Tin Roof, Memphis, TN

by Carol Knowles

by Carol Knowles

David Hinske is after something rarified almost ineffable in “transcendental vocabulary” at Art Under a Hot Tin Roof in this exhibition of nonsensically titled luminous abstractions.  Hinske asks us to let go of visual and verbal associations, to play in fields of free-flowing color shot through with light.

Barely visible thumb-sized smudges in several of the paintings conjure up the first bits of matter coalescing and the first artist making his/her signature mark with a chunk of charcoal in a Paleolithic cave.  The rest of Hinske's boundless and effervescent surfaces bring to mind cotton candy and Technicolor amoebas.  Like Beth Edwards' surprisingly powerful rubber duck portrait of bliss, Hinske's melted-popsicle pools of radiance are also a joy to behold.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

RIP Dennis

Dennis and I had few words between us.  I hung parts of an exhibition he curated last year.  He accepted some of my suggestions and ignored others.  On the other hand, he loved women.  My lovely bride was no exception. RIP.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Christopher St. John at Harrington-Brown, Memphis, TN

(What follows is Carol Knowles review of Chris St. John's show in Memphis.  Chris is formerly of Taos and showed at the late, great Sagefarm Contemporary.)

Beautiful Creatures

Christopher St. John's passionately painted, endlessly inventive exhibition "Icarus Transformed" at Harrington Brown re-envisions the Greek myth in which a boy fails to heed his father's warning, flies too close to the sun, melts his wax-and-feather wings, falls into the sea, and drowns. Instead of being doomed by hubris, St. John's protagonists — feminine versions of Icarus — defy their limitations, spread their wings/arms/fins/paws, and attempt to soar again and again and again.

Many of St. John's creatures, as in A Strange Angel, survive the fall but have not quite worked out all the kinks. This bald, baby-faced angel with one white and one red wing, bright-pink genitalia, and a huge left arm (sprouting blue fur and industrial-grade fingernails) looks out at us with an ecstatic or perhaps maniacal smile.

In what looks like natural selection at warp speed, St. John's oils on panel and more than 300 drawings mix and match seemingly endless permutations of species that stretch like pulled taffy in Melt the Wax, swell to the point of bursting in Severing Point, and flow like founts of blood in The Filter.

Naked except for lush pubic hair and with heads that look like lampshades joined at the cheek, two Icaruses sing in unison in Paper Dolls Sing Your Praise. Their wings have morphed into multiple and very full teets. Their foreheads sprout horns like a unicorn, another mythic creature noted for its beauty, purity, and faithfulness. Unashamed, uncensored, unabashedly inventive and alive, Paper Dolls, like all St. John's creatures, suggest the most fatal flaw (and surest prescription for defeat), instead of hubris, is failure of the imagination.

- Carol Knowles, Memphis Flyer, April 29, 2010