What does music look like? I don’t mean this literally — we all know how instruments and the people who play them and sing over them appear. If the sound and feel of it could be pictured, however, it might resemble something like what JL Baker captures in a series of photos shot between 2007 and 2018, images for which we might invent the term conceptual concert photography. Baker is a fan of alt rock, and he likes to hold a camera up for long exposures whilst moving with the rest of the crowd, often clicking dozens of shots per set. The best of these recall the chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, a Victorian practitioner of early camera techniques whose layered images of horses running and humans fencing later entranced the Surrealists, who were less interested in the physiognomy recorded than in the marvelousness revealed through sparkling traces of light and bizarre overlays of real motion. Something of the contagious verve of live music gets tracked by Baker — especially in those images where the musicians themselves are only just barely defined — but curiously it seems to correspond most to the improvisational phrasing of jazz, with its colored trills of light moving up and down and around, one musician playing off another, a jam for all the senses.
2019-04-30 10:14 AM
What to paint can be a struggle for an artist to figure out. Many are compelled more by the desire to set brush and medium to canvas than by the need to depict something specific. I’m guessing this might be the case for Simona Buna, a professional photographer who recently returned to painting in oils, and whose pictures currently present the tried-and-true subjects of flowers, horses and landscapes, each set against a blurry background of streaks or patches composed of the same color palette used for the foreground. The flora and fauna are lovely enough, as they can’t help but be, yet what truly stands out are the places where something less obviously scenic occurs: clumpy peach paint for a bouquet bloom, an odd orange splotch at the side of a horse’s head, the rectangular scrapes that indicate windows in a skyscraper. These small unexpected instances of paint being inarguably paint, while also being the thing it illustrates, are one of the great pleasures of painting — to more of them!
2019-04-30 10:50 AM
If an inveterate crafter grew up to study fine art instead of engineering and proceeded to channel mild OCD tendencies into their sculptural products, they might create something on the order of Kassie Woodworth’s intricate oeuvre. In her intense experiments with pattern and repetition, the natural and the manmade, Woodworth creates pieces that often hew to a singular element: metal (sliced-up bits of oxidized copper gutters bent onto a steel armature), wood (waves of raw fibrous paper supported on pointy sticks), color (graphic monotypes whose handmade frame is stained a matching shade). These imbrications, a key strength of her work, point to others: The delicate laser-cut rectangles of wood in “Focus I and II” are both structure and material. The paper strips of “Circulate” hold the wooden spikes in place; the spikes, meanwhile, hold the paper in place. Flow, wave, accrete, repeat — Woodworth channels the strategies of nature whilst using its materials. What could be more integrative?
2019-04-30 11:31 AM
Beatrice Anne Garritano
The art of children was held dear by the Surrealists, who saw in it, as they saw in the art of women, the insane and others who existed on the fringes of society, raw and untrammeled expression of the kind they were constantly gaming themselves into creating. The art of children has also long been appreciated by another group of adults, the parents of those same children, who historically have seen brilliance in every mark made by little Jane and Johnny. Rarely have those two groups converged, as they do here, in Adam Siurek’s submission of his two-year-old daughter Beatrice’s untitled triptych from 2018. Siurek is no Surrealist — you can’t really be one anymore, the membership list closed forever when Breton died — but as a contemporary professional artist, he’ll do. And so: Beatrice’s trio of petite paintings evince forceful brushwork of an unusually monochromatic variety, all white with flecks of green or red blended in, as if she were double-dipping in the paint jar. Her fierce strokes have an all-over direction, as toddlers themselves are wont to do, everything in the world being of potential interest to someone for whom it is still new. That, too, is one of the many reasons we become parents: to find the world interesting all over again.
2019-04-30 11:57 AM
We tend to take the alphabet for granted, assuming the letters mean exactly what they are supposed to mean, and that when strung together according to the rules they will add up to the words the dictionary indicates. Craig McDaniel suggests otherwise in a series of artworks that replace letters with pictures to spell out cliché phrases like “It was a dark and stormy night” and “I love you. Perhaps.” Angelina Jolie’s sultry face stands in for “A,” red and yellow polka-dots replace “D,” a fragment of a Max Ernst collage novel marks “P,” and so on. There are reasons more or less obvious for each of these and other replacements, but a third work suggests an overarching guiding principle. It is a transcription of a famous phrase from the 1924 Surrealist manifesto, about the beauty of an umbrella and a sewing machine meeting on a dissecting table. For the Surrealists, chance encounters between unexpected entities held the potential for revealing the hidden contours of the world, surprises buried beneath the veneer of rationality that systematize existence, from war to work to language. If Max Beckmann’s snarling, smoking self-portrait is the “S” and a cascade of brunette curls is the “H,” they indicate that second layer of poetic meaning that exists underneath the one we were all taught in grade school. These are Craig McDaniel’s. What are yours?
2019-04-30 12:28 PM
Visionary self-taught artists are often lumped together into the category of Outsider Art, but in the case of Dale Smith this designation fails. Smith, who is 82 years old, had a working life as an owner of Avis car rentals and a True Value hardware store, but what he truly is is a virtuosically talented and devoted maker of models. These aren’t built from kits or plans or any other kind of blueprint; they are spectacularly original creations fashioned from logs of walnut, hand-hammered copper wire, layers and layers of paint, tiny watch crystals, and whatever else Smith finds to fill his sculptures’ needs. The end results take the form of those quintessentially American subjects of old cars and football, and while I care not one whit for such things, I am nevertheless utterly awed by Smith’s bespoke creations. Why? They evidence the marriage of inventiveness with hard work, of convention with originality, of curiosity with fearlessness. Smith has it all in spades; that ’46 Buick and pigskin are lucky to have him.
2019-04-30 1:59 PM
Much of what we take to be universal isn’t quite: colors signify differently across cultures, as do hand gestures and facial expressions; the seasons are not the same from one end of a country to another; the flowers that grow here do not grow there. What’s left? Not so much, once you get into contemporary anthropology, but for now let’s focus on elementary geometry, as does Irina Hinkel in a number of her spiritually yearning paintings. Hinkel has many subjects, among them dance and flowers and the human form, but nearly all her painterly presentations of these topics are grounded by simple shapes. Four grids of colorful squares translate the seasons; a bi-color composition of a circle flanked by two vertical bars could be a flag for a new nation; even a small floral still life feels at once circular and spiral. Best of all is “Dance,” in which four funky square abstractions, painted to look sloppily taped onto a wood board, seem to be dancing themselves into ever more complex shapes. But it all starts with the basics, as in “No Race Figure,” where a patterned person rises blissfully from a golden circle.
2019-04-30 2:37 PM
If the future turned out to resemble the streamlined, Deco-fabulous world imagined in “Metropolis,” the 1927 silent movie, only instead of everything being made of sleek metal it were made of mauve, turquoise and ocher-hued terra cotta, and if that future eventually fell to catastrophic ruins, losing all of its shininess and terrifying order, its remains might look something like Jeff Dalton’s sculptures. Dalton agglomerates his vessels primarily out of extruded clay: round or squared, long or short, flattened or curled. Pieces get flung on, carefully placed, built up. If these feel like the bits and pieces of a lost society, of its architecture, its infrastructure and its decorative arts, the reference isn’t just my old-cinema-saturated imagination — Dalton is interested in the idea of refuse, in multiple senses of the word: the things thrown aside but also the reluctance to accept conventional methods. Let’s hope he’s still around in a few years when our own civilization falls to pieces: at least there will be someone to put its remains together in a strikingly moving fashion.
2019-04-30 3:11 PM
The array of subjects pictured in the watercolors, ink drawings and acrylics of Ronald Ferry aren’t all an obvious match. What have Native Americans, a snarling snake, an old man in a wheelchair, and two tough guys playing chess got in common? Likewise, a bear and a hunter up in the mountains, a beautiful woman with a European castle behind her, a covered bridge and a child gazing out a window at the garden? What they have in common is Ferry himself, in the obvious sense that he is the artist who made these pictures, but more meaningfully in that he felt compelled to make them. The scenes are constructed out of Ferry’s life and loves: an affection for the natural world, an admiration for Native American lore, an appreciation for rural Indiana roads and buildings, an instinct to place models in front of picturesque backgrounds. For decades Ferry worked in a factory that makes truck and tank transmissions; many of his models, male and female, were colleagues there, whilst others provided photographs he painted with their permission. Ferry recently retired from this employ; no doubt plenty more pictures are on their way, many of which will hopefully be like the two complex self-portraits featured here, one escaping the factory, the other at work in his barn-cum-house-cum-studio. What they lose in terms of the picturesque, they gain in reflexivity.
2019-04-30 3:54 PM
Most Canadian and European children grow up reading stories about the Barbapapas, a family of ecologically conscious shape-shifters. Mom is a huge black amoeba, Dad an even bigger pink one, and the seven children fill out the rest of the rainbow. Nathalie Maiello, a jewelry designer from Montreal, has fashioned necklaces that evoke their spirit and form — part visionary, part playful, and entirely biomorphic. The wearable art comes in a series of three, each constructed from powder-coated copper, a glycerin-filled vinyl sac, and a tightly woven cotton cord. The pairings of color — purple metal and yellow liquid, grey metal and red liquid, baby blue metal and orange liquid — are delightfully bold, and their shapes each unique. In addition to the Barbapapa reference (which, let’s be honest, it takes a certain nationality to get), oodles of others abound: bubbly letters, simple animations, mod furniture, so much more. And that’s just looking at the jewelry straight on. Imagine what happens when you actually wear it …
2019-04-30 4:16 PM
What’s a breast to do? They’re sexualized, inflated, objectified, and stuck in a pair — and yet, all our bodies come with them, regardless of gender. In a trio of works by Maddison Bethel-Brown, breasts are the constant, but they may not be the breasts you know. Or maybe they are, the ones you really know. A triptych of photographs overlaid with text suggests an ambiguous love triangle involving pancake syrup, houseplants, a penchant for hot pink, and at least two women, both of whom are admirably comfortable when topless. “Mountain,” an enormous photo of a single hazy breast, its dark brown glossy nipple hard like rock, is as studious as an Avedon portrait, and in its singularity heartwarming for the mastectomy survivor. If that doesn’t get you close enough, enter “The Areola Effect,” a room lined with a diverse array of ten areolas, printed large and hung high, as if they were looking right back at you. Think about that next time you stare.
2019-05-01 10:25 AM
Though his name bespeaks English rivers, Avon Waters paints like a Frenchman come to the rural loveliness of Midwestern America. Which Frenchman? Think late Matisse, the one of fading eyesight and watery gardens; plus Odilon Redon, though backgrounds only; and perhaps also the Fauves, but just for the wild colors, not the heavy outlines. Working with pastel, often outdoors, and under the influence of harmonious musical and natural sounds, Waters creates lush landscapes that verge into abstraction then veer back into more recognizable territory. Like his art historical predecessors, he has a knack for finding the colors in forests and ponds that most of us fail to see — pinks and lilacs, indigos and turquoises, even neon orange and lime green. If that sounds less than picturesque, it isn’t, indeed it is unfailingly beautiful, a quality which Waters amplifies by leaving out the one element that nearly always mucks up the scenery: humans.
2019-05-01 10:56 AM
The world around us is constructed primarily of geometric forms. In the room where I type this review, the ceiling tiles are square, the desk rectangular, the pot lights round. As for me, I’m a jumble of lines and spheres and even a few triangles. Artists of all eras have known this, and modern artists like Paul Klee were especially good at illustrating it. Indeed, if Klee had been born in the mid-twentieth century and had had a career as a computer programmer and a sideline as a crafter, he might have created something like Dorothy LaFara’s aquatint, “The Chase.” At its center runs a stick figure, its head a red circle, its body two blue triangles, one inverted atop the other to make a waist. Slightly askew horizontal lines fill the background, irregularly intercut with verticals, the resulting parallelograms colored shades of green and yellow to form a rural landscape of plots that looks not unlike the ones seen on a map. The kicker is the interaction of chaser and world, as the figure’s lines and shapes overlap and intersect with the rest, much as we ourselves do (and sometimes don’t) line up with the geometry that surrounds us.
2019-05-01 11:36 AM
If I told you that Kristen Kloss is a self-taught abstract artist who works improvisationally and primarily in the medium of appliqué, affixing colorful tissue and decorative papers to canvas and other two-dimensional surfaces, you’d really have no idea what she makes. That’s how good art works: it defeats its own description. And yet, the drive to describe is hard to resist, especially the longer one looks at Kloss’s collages, richly layered with strands, swaths and filaments of multi-hued paper. The trick is to stray from the surface into the associative, to convey how a tondo in those murky shades between blue, green and yellow speaks lushly of underwater seaweed forests, the kind in which you would swear you’d seen a merman swim past. Or how a second canvas, covered in hot shades of magenta, yellow and orange, might as well be a prehistoric scene of raging volcanoes and flying pterodactyls. These and other landscape visions may not be intentional, yet they nevertheless rise uncannily from Kloss’s unique way of gluing paper.
2019-05-01 12:07 PM
Most abstract painters apply oil or acrylic to canvas using brushes; some make do with palette knives; one in particular was known to fling. A few, though, have found this whole business of planned mark-making tedious and predictable. In the latter half of the 1950s, the artists of the Washington Color School — among them Morris Louis and Sam Gilliam — decided to pour on paint of varying liquidity and let gravity play a larger part than usual. It’s a way of working that requires the artist to be in the moment, to be open to failure, and to accept the unexpected — as Lacy Pearson does in her work today. Pearson uses fluid paints and inks on clayboard to evolve compositions that suggest medical imaging, aerial views of canyons, and the interiors of giant mollusks. It may not be incidental that her early education and working life focused on radiation and traveling medical sales. Indeed, various types of medical imaging produce pictures that are striking both in terms of bodily revelations and aesthetics, uncannily illustrating the invisible, stilling the ephemeral, and creating something both unlike anything else and suggestive of much. That is fitting enough description of what Pearson herself does, and in a nod to the extraordinariness of it, she adds a sprinkling of gold leaf to finish off certain compositions.
2019-05-01 12:45 PM
Paintings do not appear in just one direction, building from the flat canvas up, as mediums are applied brushstroke by brushstroke. Paintings can also materialize in the other direction, excavated by an artist who works down toward the canvas, finding what’s buried beneath the layers accumulated there. Ann McGriffin is one such painter, working in a mode that owes much to the resolutely urban art of the contemporary L.A. superstar Mark Bradford, who accretes and then digs in to band flyers and hair foil, as well as to the Affichistes, a group of French vanguardists who in the 1950s roamed the streets of Paris looking for thickly stacked and lacerated posters that they would cut off the walls and rehang in galleries. McGriffin takes natural mysteries and the old coal mining hills of her youth as inspiration, but the results are as brash and loud and full of chance encounters as a walk down a city alleyway. The most resonant and exciting of her canvases, accrued from layers of her own acrylic addition and alteration and subtraction, include the kind of elements an aware pedestrian might discover on a walk through town: random words, specks of paint, overlaid patterns and images, and a stray bird, strutting on its own merry way.
2019-05-01 2:05 PM
How do you carefully tie up events, when the events in question are those that follow the Holocaust? It is a question posed in a drawing by Karen Baldner, in which a woman and a girl work together at the impossible task of keeping history orderly. Even as they toil, it unravels. Baldner is no newcomer to this state of affairs: she grew up in West Germany, born into a Jewish family who survived the Nazi regime. Nothing is straightforward after that, and the impetus to give shape to its tangles informs many of her artistic productions, foremost among them a series of engrossing and unsettling artist books. The most unexpected of these is “German/Jew” from 2003, a three-dimensional head-shaped book, molded on the artist’s own, in which tufts of blond hair bind together the infinitely split self of that nearly obliterated creature: the titular German Jew. Before Hitler, it was possible for that self to be whole; in wartime, it was continually cleaved, literally and figuratively. The work of those who survived, including Baldner herself, is to figure out if they can put it back together again.
2019-05-01 2:43 PM
Julia Zollman Wickes
Many methods are available to the artist keen to record the world they observe around them. Painting, the medium chosen by Julia Zollman Wickes, is not the obvious one. Photography is indexical, video completist, sketching immediate. But Wickes does it with oil and acrylic on canvas, and the result is something other than just the people and places the rest of us see with our own eyes: tourists by an overlook, a couple at a gas station. In “Moving Forward,” a trio of well-dressed individuals stands awkwardly, their own coloring blending in with the mountain ridge, as drab as it is flecked with sharp tones; where they might be going is anybody’s guess. The oddly titled “Good Times at Gas Stations,” all chunky pink washes and bodies as blocky as filling tanks, takes that quintessentially modern American locale and makes it a subject for aesthetic experimentation. Wilckes’s style recalls the color blocking and simplified forms of Matisse; the brash hues and bold outlines of the Fauves; the edgy retro stylings of the comics artist Ben Katchor; and the who-are-they portraits of Alex Katz. The combination, and the experiences, are all her own.
2019-05-01 3:13 PM
Certain artists have the ability to convey through their pictures an entire way of approaching the world. If I told you that Carol Griffith manages to do this in blind contour drawings of buxom ladies who lunch, as well as in a study of three jiggly nudie dancers and one quite overcome male spectator, you’d be forgiven for disbelieving me. But you’d be wrong. Created through an elaborate and painstaking layering process, Griffith’s subjects positively pop from richly toned grounds of deepest ultramarine, sparkling emerald and fleshy blushing pink watercolor. They look part Matisse, part John Wesley, part Aline or R. Crumb — and entirely delightful. That last one is the uniquely Carol Griffith part, and it is irrepressibly joyous and open-minded, the kind that can paint a caricature at once funny, sharply observed and good-spirited. You could hang those pictures of ladies who lunch in the kind of place where ladies do lunch, and only the most uptight of them would complain (as they do about everything). The rest would smile and keep on.
2019-05-01 3:54 PM
The Studiolo [from the Italian, meaning little studio] of Frederico da Montefeltro, completed in 1482 for his palace in Urbino, was a place built for contemplation, not least of itself: the walls of the room were lined with elaborate wooden inlays depicting trompe l’oeil cupboards filled the objects of an idealized aristocratic life. It served as inspiration for the Duke, certainly, but also for many others since, including Fosbury Architecture, which created a more accessible version of the room out of printed cardboard for the Chicago Architecture Biennial last year. Mark Rospenda goes a couple of steps further, eschewing wood and cardboard for paper (it all comes from trees), in an intensive series begun in 2011 that one might call a portable Studiolo. Rospenda keeps the technique of inlay, using it to fashion meticulously integrated collages made from bits of older drawings, some with fragmented graphite marks, others blank, still others printed on the reverse with scraps of text. (The backsides are worth peeking at, revealing as they do the tidy frames of tape that hold it all together, belying the seamlessness of the front.) Rospenda’s ostensible subjects are a mantle clock, a living room potted plant and picture frames, a mirror, and so on, and certainly he has found a novel way of illustrating them, but the truly engrossing aspect of his project is not unlike that of the original Studiolo: the illusion of a scene that, when thoughtfully considered, opens up an entire world of past and present, the failed and the remade, the associative and the just what it is.
2019-05-01 4:35 PM
Funny in some places is best done loud and obvious. In the gallery, we like it quiet and cerebral, the kind you chuckle at to yourself, because you are intelligent enough to get the joke and also loose enough to know that laughter can be a legitimate reaction. There isn’t enough of this type of work in the art world, but thankfully J. Beaver makes it, with paintings that perch somewhere between the lexicographic conceptualism of Joseph Kosuth and the smart-boy gags of David Shrigley. So what’s Beaver do? “Din” is exactly not: a midsize diptych, one half painted a mild pink color and lettered in an enormous D-I-N, traced with rose soap, the other half a smooth cream-colored panel with a tiny pencil-drawn head at its center, possibly a young Donald Trump, or maybe Dudley Dursley. How else to keep such loudmouths quiet than a bar of soap in the kisser? Another painting features a simple sketch of a stool, its parts labelled, which gets you wondering: if you can’t sit on it, is it still a stool? A wooden cigarette taped to the top edge concurs: if you can’t smoke it, is it still a ciggy? The whole of it perches on an overturned bucket: if you can’t carry something in it, is it still a bucket? Meanwhile: if you can laugh with it, is it still art? Affirmative.
2019-05-02 1:56 PM
One of my favorite films of recent years was Inside Out, the Pixar production from 2015 that went inside the head of an 11-year-old girl whose family had just moved from the Midwest to San Francisco. The genius of the movie was that it animated the girl’s feelings into something that could be seen: five mono-colored characters, each symbolizing one of the basic human emotions. Shannon Galyan, a young painter also from the Midwest, has evolved a moving and idiosyncratic style of abstract painting in which she, too, assigns simple shapes and colors to her own experiences of optimism and love, depression and desperation, protection and spirituality. A depiction of terrible helplessness takes the form of a flailing, headless figure stuck against a harsh ground of black and taupe stripes. A tender image of brightly-hued circles against a grey ground points to the hope being spread by the enormous white round in the foreground. Though the meaning of these paintings will not necessarily be evident to all viewers, nevertheless it can be deeply therapeutic to make them, to find the means to illustrate internal sensations and struggles. The history of art is full of such work, from the Belgian Symbolists to the many forms of Outsider Art, all of it evidence of artworks being created because the artists needed them to be.
2019-05-02 2:30 PM
Suzanne K. Merrell
What to do with all the things that expire? Wall calendars after December 31 (insert year), parking passes, presidents … Suzanne K. Merrell, an inveterate collagist, has found a solution. She cuts them all up into tiny bits — which must be more or less cathartic, depending on the material—and refashions them into new compositions that reference but also comedically depart from the original. She’s done this with more than a few artsy calendars, including one of Michelangelo, which allowed her to produce a many-armed nude creature that would rival the goddess Kali, and another of Hiroshige, which resulted in the scene of a hip anime couple sitting up a blossoming cherry tree. The latter is my fave because the latter is my fave, even when sliced up into shards. Michelangelo just doesn’t do it for me because he never has. For “Playing with Matches,” Merrell took dozens of Diamond Brand king-sized matchbooks emblazoned with George W. Bush’s face (who knew there was a Presidential Series?) and created a larger-than-life-size portrait of a grim-faced W., his hair the dull brown of individual matches, his skin a horrid shade of matchbook-cover red, the whole of it threatening to burn up in a haze of sulphur. If only.
2019-05-02 2:57 PM
Our planet is currently being destroyed in two major ways. The first is environmental, as the effects of pollution take their irreversible toll on climate, flora and fauna. The second is the subject of Tim Hildebrandt’s devastating oeuvre: war. As a Vietnam vet, Hildebrandt knows this human scourge firsthand, and like Otto Dix did following his experiences in World War I, and as Aaron Hughes has done after his service in the Iraq War, Hildebrandt has made art out of destruction, creating works that convey the depths of horror unleashed by modern warfare. Where Dix sketched caustic prints and Hughes offers narrative objects and performances, Hildebrandt paints traditional oil compositions, many of them punctured by three-dimensional vignettes that increase their impact. His scenes of smoke-filled skies and bombed-out buildings have a frightfully timeless quality, as if Berlin could be Mai Lai could be Mosul. The vignettes, with echoes of Joseph Cornell’s surrealist boxes, offer a telescoped view into the heart of tragedy, the feel of looking into damaged bodies and homes. We need this work now like never before; indeed, in Chicago this very weekend the National Veterans Art Museum Triennial debuts. How else are we to know war must be stopped?
2019-05-02 3:33 PM
Amanda J. Kendrick
Plastic toys, birthday candles, sparkly tiaras, baseballs and plush animals — the stuff of childhood isn’t always the simple happy stuff it seems. In the paintings and sculptural reliefs of Amanda J. Kendrick, these and other kiddie remains do double duty: they point clearly back to the time of early life, but also to what ought to have been but wasn’t there. How Kendrick achieves this is in the way that she treats her found, collected and referenced materials. In “Dad Doll,” colorful vintage plastic figures and furniture, half of them whited out, are lodged into concrete and hung on a wall, threatening to fall at any moment. A concrete cross embedded with birthday party paraphernalia ends in a sharp point, as if ready to be driven into the ground at the top of a grave. Two wee paintings of a baby being held by family ought to be full of tenderness but instead the paint clumps, the faces are blank, the whole slides away. The extent to which these artworks deal in Kendrick’s own family affairs is really not the viewer’s business; their ability to convey the fragility of childhood experience, and the continued impact it has on human life, most definitely is.
2019-05-02 4:05 PM
Paintings have emotions, just like the people who make them. And while we can’t always know why a person feels what they do, or even exactly what they’re feeling, we can look long and hard at artwork and allow ourselves to acknowledge the sentiments expressed therein. Here are the sensitivities I see in three oil paintings by Beth McCormick: a Cézanne-esque landscape, all cloudy blue skies, distant mountain, green fields and fall foliage, features heavy black outlines that trouble what would otherwise be picturesque. A bursting abstraction, baby blue to umber center surrounded by ochre and red parallelograms, shatters and bleeds, like a crashed automobile. An ashen specter haunts a foggy ocher, mustard and pea composition, tracing colorless tracks through the mist. Notably, all three canvases drip, their paint so thin in places that it runs, an aspect of painting familiar since Pollock used it to convey unstoppable verve — but which here drips like tears, as if McCormick’s paintings were crying. These might be the sentiments of the artist or they might not; all art has a life of its own.
2019-05-02 5:29 PM
D. Del Reverda-Jennings
I’ve never seen a goddess, not up close and in the flesh, but if I were to she might very well look something like the figures created by D. Del Reverda-Jennings. Towering above the viewer, gleaming in all their metallic glory, bewitching with their beauty, resplendently covered in cascades of curly hair, they are a force all their own, one not to be messed with. They’re complex too, those goddesses: their bodies feature not smooth flesh but intricately worked surfaces suggesting the scars and growths that come with millennial age, with their diverse histories and legends, and with the tribulations of those who worship them. Del Reverda-Jennings builds these deities out of whatever mix of techniques and materials they require — welded, spiraled or repoussé metal; glass, wood or paper; shells, mannequins and even spent bullet casings — because, well, you’ve got to do what the goddess demands. How extraordinary, then, to know that the one who makes them, their artist, walks among us like any other.
2019-05-02 6:01 PM
If the women of Gee’s Bend had attended the Bauhaus and come out the other side of the 1980s, they might have made quilts that look something like those of Jen Broemel. The self-taught artist, who has only been quilting since 2016, is something of a genius with neon thread and improvisational piecing. Her textiles are entirely deceptive from a distance, and even misleading up close, tricks of the most pleasurable sort. What looks to be a huge sheet printed with bold and irregular graphics turns out to be shapes stitched together so seamlessly as to require touch to believe. Others, meanwhile, are indeed printed graphics, but used inside out, their geometries showing through subtly from the reverse. Broemel’s hand embroidery, meanwhile, employed in a familiar cross-stitch and simple straight stitch, achieves the utterly unfamiliar by dint of being done in neon thread, casting an alternately pink, green or orange glow on the fabric it adorns. Would that we all, myself included, had such tapestries hanging on our walls or under which to dream.
2019-05-02 6:34 PM
Alex Wilcher is the illustrator of a series of precisely drafted watercolors featuring girls who could be Margaret Keane’s famous big-eyed waifs all grown up and gone off to high school. In addition to their enormous, long-lashed peepers, Wilcher’s girls have got full lips and lush hair, a penchant for scented candles and sunflowers, and, like the story of Keane herself, a sense that something’s wrong in paradise. Keane’s characters, who achieved great commercial success starting in the 1960s, were originally attributed to her husband, who took credit for their creation and later lost that claim in a courtroom paint-off. Wilcher, meanwhile, paints some of her girls as if everything’s okay in the land of being gorgeous, young and carefree, then lets others cry it out into the flower-strewn bathwater, swarm with death’s head moths, and go fully inferno with green hair, horns, fangs and an outfit that could best be described as intestinal. Which one most truly exemplifies the state of being a high-school girl in midwestern America today, as is Wilcher herself? It could be a combination of them all.
2019-05-02 7:01 P.M.
Pareidolia is a phenomenon whereby a person sees a known shape in something unrelated, as when we find dragons in the clouds or hike out to view the old man in the mountain. It’s a helpful tendency for an artist to have, as well as a viewer. Cathy Williams has it in spades and, luckily, I’ve got a bit of it too. The scratchy acid green, magenta, grey and white miasma from which a deep black form emerges in “26.2,” a large acrylic painting by the former marathoner, looks just as much to me like an adrenaline-fueled runner hurtling against a territory as it does to her. Faces and bodies emerge in other paintings too, all of which Williams begins improvisationally, collaging this and painting that, until some form appears, demanding definition. This can be a piano man, a party girl or, as in “Imperius Prima,” the head of a woman so striking, so harshly colored, so hard edged as to seem at least part automaton, a quality enhanced by the copper belt buckle that replaces her left eye. Williams’s ability with found objects could be a kind of pareidolia, too, to keep some random scrap around for decades (she wore the belt in question in the 70s) until it finally revealed the other thing it was meant to be.
2019-05-02 7:37 PM