Misgivings and Reassurance in Contemporary Painting

We had been driving through Alligator Alley for about an hour suffering just a bit of art fair hangover and reviewing everything we had seen.  After relating a series of paintings at NADA that I had especially liked, my wife asked, “So what in particular did you like about it?”  I found myself fumbling for words and muttering something about composition.

I suppose a lot in regards to personal taste and judging art is intuitive.  It’s difficult to always be explicitly conceptual.  This line of thinking, though, spared me from needing to articulate my opinion save for when it came time write.  For some time I’ve had some nagging thoughts in connection with contemporary painting, and this line of thinking spared me from the need to articulate them.  Well, it’s come time to write.


It’s unclear whether the bias is personal or professional, but for the past several months my preference has leaned heavily toward painting.  I feel the need to say that plainly; I’m not picking on the medium.  Really, it is difficult to find a medium that has had a more caustic relationship with critical theorists and post-modern thought.  At its best it seems painting is perpetually on the cusp of being declared dead.  At its worst it is the receiver of outright rejection familiar to neo-expressionism.  Almost fundamentally the medium seems contrary to a post-modern sensibility.  Thus its current popularity (both personally and generally) is a bit surprising.

Miami’s 2013 NADA and Untitled Fairs definitely made clear that an increasingly expressive painting style is gaining traction.  Each booth seemingly showcased individual styles and characteristics unique to a single hand.  It is difficult to imagine that somehow the art will be separated from the artist.  Will we see critical praise of artwork double as personal praise of a singular talent?  Essentially, I wonder if a more expressive style of art and medium will be accompanied by a return of emphasis on authorship.  Though it would seem unavoidable, I honestly hope not.

It’s tricky severing the brushstrokes from its gesture and the gesture from the mind of the artist.  I don’t want to be presumptuous but privileging one would seem to privilege them all.  Admittedly, a lot of post-modern thought on hegemony, hierarchy, privilege, authorship, and the individual is severely overwrought.  However, I do appreciate the way in which it drastically shifted attention away from the artist and instead toward the artwork.  This shift was seriously overdue and an idea I believe it would be unwise to part with.  Superficially at least, it would appear this new sort of expressive painting could work contrary to the relatively balanced view of authorship achieved over the last three decades.

Rebecca Morris
Untitled (#05-13), 2013
oil on canvas
79 x 79 in.

This painting style, so-called New Casualism orProvisional Painting(depending on which publication you read), is more than just expressive.  It is a sort of anti-aesthetic, but not quite in the irreverent vein of Dada.  Rather, these artists presumably explore value in imperfection, incompleteness, the meta-narrative of painting art history, and anything really outside the bounds of typical 2D training.  In the Brooklyn Rail article lending the style its name, Sharon L. Butler says, “The idea is to cast aside the neat but rigid fundamentals learned in art school and embrace everything that seems to lend itself to visual intrigue—including failure.”

Raoul De Keyser
Crossing, 2010
gesso and oil on canvas mounted on wooden panel
12 5/8 x 12 4/5 in.

However, this idea presents two troublesome possibilities.  First, perhaps the shift in painting accompanied by New Casualism doesn’t carry the weight it hopes to and is merely the ugly becoming attractive, or not breaking the rules but just playing by a different set.  This would be like the sudden shift of 1990’s fashion from ugly to chic.  I suppose what I’m suggesting is that it may be that this sort of painting is not exploring new conceptual/theoretical territory but superficial aesthetic nuances – an art ‘movement’ operating more akin to a fashion world on canvas.  It is an especially Tumblr-friendly aesthetic.  This particularly makes me uneasy with the thought that despite what the artist statement may say there maybe little depth beyond the work as a simple image/commodity for the info-economies that is social networking.

The second troubling possibility is this: the only difference between bad painting and New Casualism may be an MFA and a well written artist statement.  I’m familiar with the trope that one must first know the rules before breaking them.  Still, I can’t help but suspect that too much value is being allowed to piggyback an MFA into New Casualist painting.  Both bad practice and New Casualism disregard conventions of painting and one might comment that the artist’s intention separates the two.  However, I feel a frank inspection would reveal that, in reality, working from within a system academicizing art is really what privileges the painter here, not intention.  An “outsider”/self-taught artist intentionally disregarding painting conventions and art history will hardly be considered a New Casualist and somehow this seems wrong.

In the October 2013 Artforum article Pardon My French, Thierry de Duve speaks about an idea which arrived with the 1960’s that “if anything and everything can be art, chances are that anyone can be an artist.”  While this sort of optimism may have since waned, its legacy may be an inclusivity that largely characterizes contemporary practice.  I won’t go so far as to say that a New Casualist style of painting threatens this inclusivity.  However, it does seem to work contrary to it.  Perhaps the relatively recently increased emphasis and value placed on MFA programs is partly an Apollonian swing away from this 1960’s utopian inclusivity.  Still, it seems paradoxical for a style to disregard convention yet still privilege an intellectual class.

Another post-modern precept that much of contemporary painting seems to operate in opposition to is the idea of the art object.  Arguably, the increasing commodification of art led to a reaction from many artists to create work that is less…commodity-ish.  I suppose it seems a lot of a commodity appears to be tied up in its physical objectness – an object that can physically be obtained, owned, sold, and bought.  Thus, perhaps naturally, a popular reaction was to eschew the physical nature of art in favor of its conceptual one.  Culminating, of course, in conceptualism, much of current painting seems unconcerned with this aspect of contemporary art.  Little else embodies collecting, the art market, and capitalism in art than painting.  Its small size, though I do like it, only seems to add a “collect-them-all” appeal to the art form.  It may be recalled that perhaps a small reason Neo-Expressionism faded as it did was that the movement was partially perceived as a sort of market manipulation by Charles Saatchi; he was at least thought to have believed the medium lent itself well to it.  Perhaps, this should serve as a cautionary tale to New Casualism.

Finally, I should mention Jerry Saltz’ scathing article on the same style (which he curiously calls ‘Neo-Mannerism’).  Of course there was the expected rancor from the painting community, in which I can be included.  We may both have misgivings about the same painting style (though I’d characterize Jerry’s misgivings as ‘complaints’), we have misgivings about very different aspects of that style.  Saltz takes issue with the aesthetics of New Casualism, which I admittedly like.  Thus, I was disappointed that he didn’t offer visual examples of his visual criticisms.

I suppose the bulk of my misgivings are rooted in the feeling that a great deal of contemporary painting may be ignoring some of the best thought to come out of art and theory over the last several decades.  I really don’t mean for that to sound so heavy-handed or dramatic.  I don’t reckon that if my misgivings are in fact true this is some sort of regression that perhaps may have been the case with Neo-Expressionism and the Transavantgarde.  Rather, hopefully, may it merely be a temporary conceptual laziness.  Still, perhaps my misgivings are just ill-founded and badly interpreted.  Contemporary painting – New Casualism and Provisionalism – offer several reassurances.


It’s tempting to tie moody dramatic brush strokes to ideas of modernism too often.  Contemporary painting is characterized by a similar stroke.  However, it’s very unlikely there is any considerable amount of Greenbergian thought behind it.  Really, “expressionistic”, a term I used earlier, could be wholly inaccurate.  It may be that such a brush stroke doesn’t refer to the singular vision or experience but to the physical body itself.

The painterly, the “expressionistic” brush stroke in contemporary painting is likely more often a documentation of the hand that left it.  This may signal a return of interest in the body.  Of course this should be expected.  In an increasingly virtual world, the function of the physical body within it is becoming increasingly murky.  Painting lends itself especially well to exploring physical concerns, specifically through such brush strokes that suggest the bodily mechanics that create them.

Regardless, it might not be so bad for painting to return to considering the individual.  Maybe not the artist as individual, but the collective idea of the individual in general.  Art has been preoccupied with its own market and politics for so long that a change of scope may be in order. I can’t tell if I’m getting bored with it or just emotionally tired, but a more intimate subject matter could definitely be welcome.  It may in turn lead toward the elusive balance of a personal artwork that steers clear of sentimentality.

Another apprehension with contemporary painting that I mentioned earlier is its objectness, a worrying regression to the art object.  The multitude of available pieces, the ease of display and exhibition has always made painting ideal for art collecting, contemporary painting perhaps especially so.  The fear of painting’s descent into a simple economic commodity is understandable.  However, the 2010’s are very different from the 1960’s.

Originally, Conceptualism was partly a reaction to, or at least immediately preceded by an art market that reveled in high-priced and highly collectible Abstract Expressionist painting.  New Casualism, however, is partly a reaction to, or at least immediately preceded by a bloating art market reveling in often ostentatious and enormous ‘Neo-Conceptualist’ art.  In their own ways, Conceptualism and New Casuaulism are each, in part, push-backs against the artwork and art market of their respective times.

Barbara Rossi
Black Rock Top, 1972
Acrylic on Plexiglas with printed satin, oil on wood frame
41 x 33

It should also be noted that, to some extent, by the year 2014 artists seem to have largely made peace with the idea that regardless of intent or form, their art will likely (or even hopefully) wind up as a commodity for sale.  In the rare exceptions in which artwork does not fit in as a commodity (e.g. net art), it is usually seen more as a problem than an accomplishment, even by some of us staunchest anti-capitalists.  Today, the question isn’t so much whether or not one’s art should work from within the art market, but how it should work within that market.

The work that dominated fairs such as Basel leading up to the 2010’s (and arguably still do) were often perceived as imposing, gaudy, and glossy tokens of wealth.  It would require a considerable fortune to simply care for some of whatever formaldehyde dipped object a collector liberated Damien Hirst of.  Eventually, in light of the housing market collapse of 2008 such work could hardly avoid seeming garish.

Jim Nutt
I’m All A TWit, 1969
acrylic reverse painting on vinyl window shade with enamel on wood

Contemporary painting perhaps reeled itself in partly as a reaction to this recession of wealth – literally as art supplies were more difficult to afford and figuratively as a reflection of a more modest market.  It may be that New Casualist/Provisionalist painting also tired of the cynicism that characterized preceding work and opted for a more intimate practice.  Further, contemporary painting appears ready to take up issues in the medium set aside since the 1970’s, but from a new vantage point.  Though it’s composed of considerably more figuration, it may be little coincidence that  artwork from the late 1960’s and 1970’s such as Funk Art, the Chicago Imagists, and “Bad” Painting visually resemble much of contemporary art.  Thus, though it may not be conceptually perfect, contemporary painting is an appropriate, even welcome, response to much of the dominant artwork that preceded it.

* * *

After reviewing my personal misgivings and reassurances with contemporary painting, a sort of convoluted pros and cons list, I’m left with no substantial judgements.  Really, I’m only left with what was perhaps always obvious: to judge and experience art individually with their larger “-ism” serving as nothing more than context.  Perhaps New Casualism’s and Provisionalism’s most glaring fault is simply the name that, for better or worse, bundles the artwork of many to be summarily judged as one body and sold as one style.

Misgivings and Reassurance in Contemporary Painting

ART AT BAY Best of 2013: This Year’s…Was Last Year’s…and Will Be Next Year’s…


It’s a fun exercise: looking at trends over the past couple years and predicting how they’ll take shape in the coming one.  I suspect many feel similarly in hoping that art is some how above the sort of trend cycle fashion is subject to.  Still, some cycles are persistent.  Thus, it’s easy for this sort of thing to degenerate into a Joan Rivers style snark party.  To that end, I’ve included some lessons I’ve learned from the review and goals of personal improvement as an art appreciator.

This year’s James Turrell was last year’s Gerhard Richter and will be next year’s Paul McCarthy

Gerhard Richter and James Turrell are artists that have enjoyed a largely pleasant relationship with the art world for considerable portions of their respective careers.  However, over the course of a year the said art world seems to have overshot love and landed in obsession with each artist – a sort of reputation bubble, minus the popping.  It seemed, for a bit at least, Richter’s paintings couldn’t sell for enough then Turrell’s reviews couldn’t stop short of orgasmic.  So who’s up next?

I predict Paul McCarthy reluctantly.  “Reluctantly” because two other people would’ve nearly been a better fit.  Frank Lloyd Wright has upcoming exhibitions at both the MoMA and Guggenheim – that sort of cosmic alignment slash institutional validation is often all that’s needed to precipitate an art world freak out.  Additionally, the work of Mike Kelley has deservedly been gathering momentum over the past couple years.  It’s difficult to not tumble into thinking about what he would have accomplished had he been alive.  Regardless, he would’ve likely been one of the most important working artists for years to come.  That said, I went with Paul McCarthy because of the similar point in his career and his two high-profile pieces during 2013 – his giant balloon dog at Frieze and saucy Snow White of ‘WS’.  In the past McCarthy’s work may have perhaps been too irreverent to ever characterize him as an art world darling.  However, both of these pieces were both very well received.  If 2014 sees a genuinely great piece from McCarthy, he may enjoy the same critical near-infallibility recently afforded to Turrell and Richter.

The lesson I learn here is to be wary of getting caught up in my own words and the words of others.  These artists all create great work.  However, as a writer in a world of sound bytes and hasty judgement its easier to repeat whats heard than generate new discussion.

This year’s Bushwick was last year’s Williamsburg and will be next year’s Ridgewood

I believe the rise in awareness of hipsters can partly be tied to Williamsburg’s popularity.  The neighborhood is not unlike Haight-Ashbury to the hippies, just much less romantic and much more ironic.  Though the tide of hipsters hasn’t waned, gentrification has pushed back (though an argument can be made that hipsterdom is gentrification).  Many art galleries obviously arrived to Williamsburg with the low (relatively speaking) rent and influx of creatives.  Perhaps partially due to the aforementioned gentrification some importance in Brooklyn visual arts has since shifted to Bushwick.  Some of the off-Manhattan NYC art world already seems to be seeping into Queens.  Specifically, Ridgewood may soon find itself the inheritor of a considerable portion of Brooklyn’s art scene.  The recent closure of 3rd Ward is definitely ominous for those clinging to Kings county.

I mention this all because we have Tampa Bay neighborhoods that we hold dear.  Though the sluggish real estate market spares us from the sort of gentrification chasing the creative community out-of-town in New York, we aren’t spared entirely.  Last year’s battle between Seminole Heights’ locals and the Family Dollar chain highlighted this issue.  Perhaps more importantly, it underscored the nature of the fight and the near impossibility of artists ever winning in the long-term.  The way the rules are set, we are necessarily an exodus-prone bunch.  The rise and fall of New York’s neighborhoods illustrate this clearly.  The struggle against gentrification and being pushed out needs to start early and be thoroughly tenacious or just not be struggled against at all.

This year’s Marina Abramovic was last year’s Damien Hirst and will be next year’s…I have no idea.

This is a very specific sort of artist/set of circumstances and is why I didn’t think I could make this prediction well.  It requires a  respected artist making a series of poorly regarded decisions, followed by one surprisingly bad one.  Remember Hirst’s multi-Gagosian solo exhibit (aka Art Scavenger Hunt for the Rich)?  This year Abramovic produced a gala performance that seemed to unnecessarily denigrate the performers.  Her piece “The Artist is Present” seemed powerful to some, pretentious to others – caused uncontrollable crying in both.  Finally, there is her collaboration with Jay-Z – a marathon performance of his song Picasso, Baby.  However implausible, the performance seemed to cheapen both performance art and hip hop simultaneously.  This was followed by a Kickstarter project that was largely viewed as borrowing from the poor to build a vanity institution.  In the eyes of many, this left Marina at the end of the year bereft of much of the authenticity she had at the beginning of 2013.

Though I sincerely hate seeing reputations take a tumble like this, they are inevitable.  Thus, who has set themselves up to make a surprisingly bad call in 2014?  Well, the nature of it makes this prediction difficult.  Part of what makes these decisions so bad is that they come from artists that we were sure knew better.  That’s why Jeff Koons wouldn’t fit the prediction.  We weren’t surprised by his boring and tasteless Lady Gaga album cover.  Had Cindy Sherman, for example, produced that cover, we’d have next year’s prediction.

The lesson I learn here is that authenticity is valuable.  Further, authenticity squandered draws the ire of the critical art world.  Remaining authentic may be difficult but ultimately leads to success…whatever that is.

This year’s “sloppy” abstraction was last year’s geometric forms and will be next year’s figuration

No more crystalline shapes, no more stripes.  There was a moment in the recent past when you could not throw a stone at an art fair without hitting a triangle on a canvas.  This is the bizarre world of painting, where shapes fall in and out of style.  Seriously, though, this at least gave way to the paradoxically sloppy yet well thought out abstraction that seemed to dominate painting this year.  More importantly it made painting in general interesting once again.  Artists and viewers alike seem ready to explore the nuances of the medium, to take the medium seriously in a way that hasn’t been done in a very long time.  I may sound like I’m overstating it, but I don’t think I am.

It is because of this more deliberate approach that I think that fans of the medium are ready to consider figuration again.  For a long time figuration has been a sort of conceptual obscenity in painting.  Thus, I’m excited for its return.  This is the prediction I’m probably most confident with.  I’m pretty sure before you get to Miami in 2014 you can say something like “NADA is definitely going to be dominated by figurative/representational painting this year” and not look like a fool.  If I end up being totally off, send me angry email –  I’ll promptly read it delete it.

The lesson I learned here is how much a medium can conceptually blossom once given the consideration it’s due.  Great art seems to be the product of an animated give and take, the result of boring things like accountability, refinement, conversations, practice, persistence.

ART AT BAY Best of 2013: This Year’s…Was Last Year’s…and Will Be Next Year’s…

[Support our Sponsor!] Theo Wujcik: New Paintings at Selby Gallery

The first time we met he related a memory of throwing off their clothes and jumping into a collector’s pool with Jean-Michel (Yes, as in Basquiat).  I suppose it isn’t surprising such an artist is cherished by the local community.  Really, though, it is his painting that’s secured him in the esteem of Tampa Bay.

Wujcik’s work is often about pop culture but somehow beyond pop art.  His work explores some of the subtext of cultures while tackling the nuances of painting itself.  Each new series of work seems to bring along a refined conceptual efficiency.  Thus its with some excitement that new work from Theo Wujcik is now exhibiting at Sarasota’s Selby Gallery.

The show is an interesting combination of solo and dual exhibit.  Selby Gallery is exhibiting in inter-institutional conjunction with State College of Florida which is presenting the work of Kirk Ke Wang.  Wujcik and Wang work in nearby studios often meeting to discuss new work and the concepts behind it.  Though both have a way of getting at the politics behind pop-culture, ethnic cultures, and art making they differ markedly in execution.  Exhibiting the two together in a way offers two perspectives of the same landscape.  Especially interesting is the fact that Theo Wujcik created entirely new work specifically for this exhibit.

Ringling College’s Selby Gallery is a beautiful 3,000 square foot space.  Aimed at offering students and the surrounding community exposure to acclaimed artists, the gallery sets out to be “both a center of learning and hub of extracurricular activity.”  Selby Gallery has developed a reputation beyond that of a college gallery and into as one of Sarasota’s best destinations for contemporary art.

Theo Wujcik: New Paintings is on view through December 11.  Selby Gallery is located on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus, one-half block east of 2700 N. Tamiami Trail on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Sarasota.  Hours are Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Tuesday, 10:00 Am – 7:00 PM.

Theo Wujcik, Dragon, 2012, 90”x84”; Joe Triana, photographer
Theo Wujcik, Dragon, 2012, 90”x84”; Joe Triana, photographer
[Support our Sponsor!] Theo Wujcik: New Paintings at Selby Gallery

A Better Time Signature: Stacy Rosende at Gallery 221

In a way, I was glad I had missed the opening reception.  Instead, I walked the gallery for an hour alone on a Monday afternoon.  Stacy Rosende‘s solo exhibit subSURFACE speaks slowly and would likely rather wait patiently than shout over the din of a crowded art party.  This reveals something about the work itself – there is a peculiar sort of temporality running through it.

Initially, some of Rosende’s new work is reminiscent of the paintings of Todd Chilton.  However, the two artists tackle very different concerns.  Unlike Chilton’s opaque painterly style, Rosende creates a sort of abstract foreground and background.  Geometric patterns of color cover the panels.  Underneath, an arrangement of decorative flourishes can be dimly seen at times and disappear completely elsewhere.  This was inspired by a recent stay in Venice, Italy as the texture, patterns and layers of the city’s walls clearly influenced much of the work in subSURFACE.  The play between foreground and background does add a sense of depth to Rosende’s paintings.  However, a clear and strong sense of rhythm still dominates Rosende’s work.  The paintings may have come from an interest in surface, but seem to be very much about rhythm.

Vertical lines of color, irregularly sized and multi-colored without a discernible pattern, suggest a complex beat and a certain musicality.  Rosende doesn’t offer the eye a place to rest, instead forcing it to play through the composition, dancing over the colors left to right and back again.  In her statement, Rosende draws comparisons between tones in music and color, waves of sound and light, and arrangements both musical and visual.  Perhaps all of these comparisons are most easily discerned in Fertile.

At the center of the space, the sculpture occupies a significant amount of the gallery floor.  Twenty-nine differently sized stone-like objects (they’re actually plaster mixed with natural materials) are arranged in a ‘V’ formation from largest to smallest.  One side of each object is smooth and painted, the largest orange and gradually darkening with each piece down to the smallest painted black.

Fertile contrasts severely against the paintings and prints in the exhibit while offering a sort of respite.  Unlike the paintings which produce a sort of visual syncopation, the size, color and arrangement in Fertile all work in accord to produce a specific rhythm, a particular movement.  The piece draws your eyes front to back to front.  The movement is almost sexual.  The work’s title coupled with the movement suggest the womb, birth, or even the ascension and descent explored in the Cremaster Cyle of Matthew Barney.

Though I may be swayed by my particular gallery visit, what may be most valuable about this show is its slower pace.  Conceptual one-liners, needlessly showy and large work, parties badly disguised as art exhibits: each often coddle and cater to a critical laziness.  Rosende’s solo exhibit doesn’t do this.  Instead, the show makes apparent that it’ll take time.  If you are to honestly like or dislike the work, it’ll be after spending some time with it.  Ultimately, it may be this sort of “time signature” that is key to taking art seriously again.

A Better Time Signature: Stacy Rosende at Gallery 221

ART AT BAY Presents: Princess Simpson Rashid

"Periodic Table-2"- Medium: Acrylic on Canvas Size: 36" x 60"
“Periodic Table-2”-
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 36″ x 60″
"Emotion Review"- Medium: Acrylic on Canvas Size: 24" x 24" x 1.5"
“Emotion Review”-
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 24″ x 1.5″
"The Solution"- Medium: Acrylic on Canvas Size: 24" x 30" x 1.5
“The Solution”-
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 30″ x 1.5

Princess Simpson Rashid is an American painter and printmaker living and practicing in Tampa, Fl. Her body of work is multi-faceted. She paints figurative abstractions, pure abstractions and landscapes – besides the fact that she works with varied techniques. Her current work explores the relationships between color, perception and symbolism. With striking color and innovative technique, Princess moves her audience in ways unimaginable. Her previous collections explore subjects that range from mathematics to music to competitive fencing, and they too explore both the etherealness and rigidness of the subjects at hand. Her work has been exhibited aboard, and she has participated in more than twenty group shows and has been granted the opportunity to have more than ten solo exhibitions.

She is a graduate of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA with a B.S in Physics; she is a competitive fencer and a coach, a mother of two daughters, and wife to a Naval Aviator.  Check out her website to see more of her work.

The Assembly Line-Princess Rashid

"Juicy Music" Medium: Acrylic on Canvas Size: 30" x 24"
“Juicy Music”
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 30″ x 24″
"Composition B" Medium: Acrylic on Canvas Size: 24" x 48"
“Composition B”
Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
Size: 24″ x 48″
ART AT BAY Presents: Princess Simpson Rashid

ART AT BAY Presents: Ryan Trombley

The Limit, 48 x 48 in, Acrylic on Canvas

The paintings of Tampa based artist Ryan Trombley nearly seem to move – to swell, shrink, and bulge in various pockets of each canvas.  His pieces are often abstracted using a peculiar method of stripes and geometric forms of white canvas.  These empty lines set a sort of tight, almost uneasy rhythm.  In a way they reflect  Trombley’s conceptual swings between simplicity and complexity as well as a viewer’s urge to at once consider each stripe individually while taking several steps back and allowing the pieces to blend together.  Click on the images to enlarge them, and the painting is suddenly very different.  Check out Ryan Trombley’s website here, to see more of his work.

Gates Test, 8 x 12 in, Acrylic on Canvas
Trancing On The Past, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas
Ryan Trombley - Remember To Forget
Remember to Forget, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas
2AM Swim
2AM Swim, 36 x 36 in, Acrylic on Canvas

ART AT BAY Presents: Ryan Trombley

ART AT BAY Presents: Nicholas Bohac

"Shoegazers" Acrylic, Ink, Spraypaint & Collage on Canvas 20"x36"
Acrylic, Ink, Spraypaint & Collage on Canvas
"Movement" Graphite & Acrylic on Paper 18"x12"
Graphite & Acrylic on Paper

Nicholas Bohac, a seasoned artist living and working in San Francisco, plays with the structural elements of fractal geometry, architecture, and the concept of time travel in order to present his audience with an alternative view of the world we inhabit. He primarily works with printmaking methods and acrylic based media to create two-dimensional paintings & drawings that suggest a surrealistic escape and z hint of nostalgia.

Bohac is interested in the complexities found in our universe; in his artist statement he writes about how the idea that everything came from nothing is extremely influential on the work that he makes today.

His painting and drawings are meant to be read as “very ethereal, just like a hallucinatory dream.”

Check out more of his work on his website.

"Outro" Graphite & Acrylic on Paper 18"x12"
Graphite & Acrylic on Paper
"Communiqué" Acrylic, Ink, Guouche & Collage on Film mounted on Wood Panel 18"x12"
Acrylic, Ink, Guouche & Collage on Film mounted on Wood Panel
"Portal" Acrylic, Ink, Spray Paint & Collage on Canvas mounted on Wood Panel 18"x24"
Acrylic, Ink, Spray Paint & Collage on Canvas mounted on Wood Panel
ART AT BAY Presents: Nicholas Bohac

ART AT BAY Presents: Natalie Kuehn

Natalie Kuehn (3)
Spillway Station
Natalie Kuehn (4)
Spillway Station (detail)

Calling Tampa based Natalie Kuehn a “visual artist” sells her short in a way.  Working in art direction, graphic design, and set design in addition to studio painting, Kuehn’s relationship with visual language extends beyond the scope of a strictly defined visual art.  Perhaps it is her paintings, though, that offer the most nuanced conversation.  Her work is often both abstract and figurative.  Painterly strokes land on and around recognizable objects.  In this way, Kuehn’s work comments on issues and ideas such as urban decay, memory, creation and destruction while also addressing concerns specific to the medium.  Check out more of Natalie Kuehn’s work on her website here.

Natalie Kuehn (5)
Painting Sketch
Natalie Kuehn (2)
Atomic Number 10
Natalie Kuehn (6)
Unending Vortex
Natalie Kuehn (1)
For the Birds
ART AT BAY Presents: Natalie Kuehn

#TwitterCrit: On the Many Deaths of Painting

This week we’re introducing #TwitterCrit – a new series on ART AT BAY.  From time to time, we’ll let you know of a time and date, and we’ll discuss various art ideas/quotes/news on Twitter via the hash tag #TwitterCrit.  We’ll then publish highlights of the conversation as an article on the blog.

Art at Bay writers Victoria Casal-Data and Danny Olda gave the idea a test-run.  We spoke about the March 2003 Artforum article “The Mourning After“, the many times painting has been declared dead, and trends in painting locally.   Check out our conversation below, and join us the next time we get together for #TwitterCrit.

Danny Olda: So, the article, The Mourning After, was published in Artforum in 2003 and they were talking about the death of painting, right?

Victoria Casal-Data: Well, yeah primarily during the 80’s, in the rise of post-modernism— many thought that painting was dead. This goes back to the idea of Greenberg and modernism; pointing out that the abstract expressionists were the last ones to effectively use (in terms of critical thought) the medium of painting. The AbEx movement was thought to be the pinnacle of painting.

Danny Olda: In a way I guess it does, though to be honest, they also mentioned the first proclamation of the death of painting with the advent of photography.

Victoria Casal-Data: That’s true.

Danny Olda: Something I thought was interesting was that a few suggested that this proclamation of “painting’s death” wasn’t so much a sincere observation as much as a hope that it would indeed die or a goal set out, in a way, ‘kill’ painting. Do you think you’d agree with that?

Victoria Casal-Data: Well, yes and no. I think that many were just making the observation that ‘painting was dying’- depending on the type of post-modern thinking they were in tune with. For instance, I think that Danto makes the observation of art’s ‘failure’ to continue being the kind of art that the public and critics, were used to. Actually, many of the critics’ writing had a distinguished tone- one of sadness and surrender. The age of art as they knew it- was about to end, hence the mourning.

Danny Olda: You think so?

Victoria Casal-Data: Yeah, I think this may be right. Basing this on some of the writings I’ve read, including text by Hal Foster and Howard Singerman– I can say that there is an overall tone of surrender in their writing- both curatorial writing, and critical writing.

Danny Olda: I felt like it may have been dominated by a bunch of American critics finding post-structuralism 20 years late and claiming painting obsolete before artists were indeed through with it.

Victoria Casal-Data: This may be true, but it was a truth of the time that the artist persona was becoming less and less essential- as pastiche- a signification of culture was becoming the focal point of many artists and art. It wasn’t about individuality, or progress anymore.

Danny Olda: Do you think predicting paintings general death was on some level just a reaction to neo-expressionism?

An example of neo-expressionism: Anselm Kiefer, Seraphim, 1983–84
An example of neo-expressionism: Anselm Kiefer, Seraphim, 1983–84

Victoria Casal-Data: Yeah could be. Though I think that ‘the death of painting’ was expected from the very beginning of modernism in mid-late 19th century. Most likely though, the neo-expressionism and trans-vanguard movements were generated because of an economic interest. Perhaps for the sole reason of going back to something that was FAMILIAR in the sense of history, reference, and medium, of course.

Danny Olda: Yeah, I think a lot of people agree w/ you – also maybe a product of Charles Saatchi trying to influence the market?

Victoria Casal-Data: Yeah, could be.

Danny Olda: So, painting is not dead…what did these cultural theorists get wrong?

Victoria Casal-Data: I think that part of it was a reaction- the present art world, at that time, subjected painting to be uninteresting and uncritical. That might be different today. That, I don’t know.

Danny Olda: I feel like maybe with big parts of neo-expressionism seeming like a sort of regression in political discourse prompted people to call painting dead when maybe they should’ve said “less relevant.” One of the contributors mentioned in the article that photography didn’t kill painting, in fact, it immortalized painting. It makes me think that painting won’t die at the hands of obsolescence, or an old fashioned discourse, or even at the hands of Julien Schnabel, but maybe just from people getting bored with it.

Victoria Casal-Data: Photography perfected representation- representations of objects in the real words-which, from the beginning of time, was painting’s goal. It is then that painting had to take a different role by staying away from representation.  

Sooner or later, abstraction had to come forth, essentially, giving painting, theoretically, a death wish.

I think that the term ‘death of’ in terms of modernist ideas in art- comes down to Greenberg- he set a guide for what modernist work should be like- especially in terms of painting. The idea was that painting should be abstracted to its very core- the struggle of painters to work critically towards this exact goal- it can be said- ended withe AbEx painters- maybe with Stella.

Danny Olda: Well, I don’t know if we can say it ended with AbEX – I feel like Ad Reinhardt and Robert Ryman both tried “killing painting” in their own way.

Victoria Casal-Data: Well yeah and so did Stella, they all worked critically.

Danny Olda: That isn’t to say they operated within some AbEx discourse, though.

Victoria Casal-Data: Not necessarily, but they were referencing it. I think that the most important thing to understand here is that- the progression of painting- the way it was- in a critical sense was doomed.

Danny Olda: Or thought to have been doomed.

Victoria Casal-Data: Yeah.

Danny Olda: So, talking about the current state of painting today is sorta big…but what about locally in Tampa Bay?

Victoria Casal-Data: I’ve been more familiar with installation, multimedia, and photography works here in Tampa. I don’t see much painting.

Danny Olda: And that makes me think that it might be my personal taste, but most of my favorite local artists are painters.

Victoria Casal-Data: Ah, that’s great. Can you give examples?

Franklin Evans, Installation view of paintthinks, 2013 via http://www.franklinevans.com/

Danny Olda: Well, when you sent the article over to me, and I was trying to connect it locally, I thought of Christina Humphrey’s latest show at Centre Gallery, a lot of those pieces resembled jpg glitches or botched scans. For her (and a lot of painters I suspect) discourse sort of opens up around painting and technology.

Victoria Casal-Data: Right, but how about the medium itself, is there any alterations to the medium of painting?

Danny Olda: Not locally so much. But nationally maybe artists seem eager to get paintings off the canvas, and perhaps call a painting what would traditionally be considered a sculpture.

Victoria Casal-Data: Yeah, there’s this artist- I can’s recall her name but she did that.  It was sort of like a Pollock, but instead of paint in canvas, it was on the floor, and all over the gallery space.  

Danny Olda: No, but I particularly had in mind the “Painter Painter” exhibit at the Walker Art Center 

Well, you know there is Anthony Record – I just spoke with him-I don’t want to spoil it since he hasn’t exhibited the pieces yet, but he is working on nearly monochromatic pieces that actually utilize 3D aspects perhaps more than color or even paint. I think he’d call them paintings, though many people would likely feel uneasy calling them that. Here is one of those A. Record pieces I was referring to this.

Dianna Molzan, Untitled, 2013 via http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2013/painter-painter#

Victoria Casal-Data: Nice! I was thinking of something like this, where the painting goes out of its space. Although this is not exactly what I was referring to.

Danny Olda: I see what you mean, and that would make an interesting discussion/question in itself:  “What is painting and what can it be?”

Victoria Casal-Data: Well that’s an interesting question that I think has been proposed many, many times. I’m not really sure, I personally think of it in terms of progression. Painting progresses in the way its being used.

Danny Olda: Yeah, pretty exciting to explore, especially as an artist.

Victoria Casal-Data: Certainly, as I would see it, a painter- with a critical mindset- should see him/herself as a problem solver. And I think that this makes painters interesting and forthcoming.

Danny Olda: I think I’d agree with you – they often seem to be the most critically minded. And maybe it has to do with the medium’s long history and heritage- sheesh I hate using either of those words

Victoria Casal-Data: which?

Danny Olda: history and heritage

Victoria Casal-Data: haha

Danny Olda: inherited legacy maybe?

Victoria Casal-Data: I wouldn’t say heritage, history sure.

Danny Olda: lol

Victoria Casal-Data: But really, there wouldn’t be any kind of post-modernism if it weren’t for history. Ahistoricism comes as an opposite of history.

#TwitterCrit: On the Many Deaths of Painting

Art@Bay’s Best of 2012 – Best Gallery Exhibit

The highly prized and sought after A@B Best of 2012 “Best Exhibit” Cyber-Trophy!

This post is second in Art@Bay’s Best of 2012 series – check out the introduction and pick for Best Museum Exhibit here.

I initially felt some reluctance releasing this installment because I felt a tad guilty for not having attended some exhibits (thus, I couldn’t appropriately include them).  After some consideration though, I’ve mustered some gumption: Likely I’ve attended more local art exhibits than anyone (save perhaps for Luis from Art Taco).  Anyhow, if you disagree with my pick, let me know in the comments section below – I’ll tell you why it didn’t make my cut.

Best Gallery Exhibit

Neil Bender: Purple Nurple – Tempus Projects

(left) Looks Like, oil and acrylic on canvas, 49" x 85 ", 2009-10 (right) A Habitable Ether, oil on canvas, 40" x 50", 2011-12
(left) Looks Like, oil and acrylic on canvas, 49″ x 85 “, 2009-10 (right) A Habitable Ether, oil on canvas, 40″ x 50”, 2011-12

Perhaps its natural a solo exhibit came out strongest – they have fewer variables than a group show.  Regardless, last February’s Neil Bender solo show at Tempus Projects impressed me most.

The exhibit was dominated by relatively large-scale paintings visually tied together by medium (oil on canvas) and a subtly similar palette.  The centerpiece of the show – the 88 x 120 in. My Daughter’s Overturned Bedroom – hung alone on the gallery’s west wall.

Bender’s composition and style reflect an awareness of the contemporary dialogue on art and painting’s place in it.  With the field of relevant painting (presumably) shrinking, good work is all the more exciting.  His choice of medium wasn’t a trivial one – the use of oil was ideal for the subject matter.  The somewhat painterly fleshy masses of the pieces recalled Rubenesque figures through a contemporary lens, a sort of baroque R. Crumb.

However, I’m not saying that his work was in any way frivolous.  Rather, Bender was able to convey the moral muddiness of some pretty heavy issues – objectification, sexual politics, gender roles.  His paintings resist being heavy-handed politically, instead according an appropriate complexity to the concepts they touch on.

Bender also managed to resist being heavy-handed with the shock and awe.  When dealing with issues such as sexuality, artists can get as adolescent as the rest of us.  It’s easier to take a lazy pointlessly raunchy route.  The nudity in Bender’s paintings is relatively understated and effective.  The pieces encourage a slow look in contrast with the facile shock and instant impression (then consequent forgetting) of immature work.

Really, Bender’s work in Purple Nurple had a conceptual depth that is not seen often enough in the Bay area.  Further, it was executed with a balanced hand both aesthetically and in process.

Honorable Mention:

Parallel Movements: Justin Nelson and Daniel Mrgan – C. Emerson Fine Arts

156671_10152131771580632_24261848_nThis past October CEFA presented a dual exhibit of work from two popular Bay area artists: Justin Nelson and Daniel Mrgan.  Both had exhibited a few times locally throughout the year.  However, this exhibit featured new work from both artists.  More importantly, it signaled a subtle but positive shift in each artist’s style.

Nelson and Mrgan both use an approach to their work that is easily liked.  While popular art can run the risk of becoming populist art, this exhibit caught the work of both artists maturing.  In their own ways, the new work from Nelson as well as Mrgan abstracted itself further from earlier pieces.  The art investigated similar concepts and processes, but definitely deeper and more effectively in Parallel Movements.

Art@Bay’s Best of 2012 – Best Gallery Exhibit