Title of the painting show:
" hovering over the universe I aim my laser pistol into the eye of the universe and time slowes down, is splayed out so I can see the interlocking spirals and splatted fractal glowing shapes, all different sizes and moving different speeds, but when seen from this vantage point, their spiney glorious and gorgeous perfection when seen alltogether..."
The artists in the show:
Kristin Calabrese (me)
The gallery where the show
will be held:
Honor Fraser Gallery
1337 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 401 0191
The particulars about the show as it relates to the
The gallery is small: ten feet wide by thirty feet long. The idea is that one painting by each artist in the space, each a medium sized painting (somewhere around the arm span of a medium sized woman as the limit for the width) shown together in the space would give the viewer a more physical impression of the paintings. The sides of the canvasses are as important as the front of the canvas and the physicality of paintings as objects would be much more apparent because of the proximity of the viewer to the works when navigating the space. There will also be one sculpture. Altogether, an artwork by each of these artists should prove to be hair-raising. It is anticipated that some people will faint.
The opening will be July 28, 2007
of consciousness beyond which words fail though meanings still exist"
(T. S. Eliot, 1950)
When you are confronted with a painting, ideally you are having an experience with an object that communicates actively in some way with you. Certainly you can choose not to participate by not looking, since a painting cannot jump in front of you and wave it's arms or make noise (although if a painting has speakers attached to it that do make noise is that part of the painting or is that another element all together that cannot be considered as included within the painting?)
Some paintings frame a view of the world and act as a portal. A painting of this type could be somewhat realistic however there is often some sort of filter applied to perception, such as cubism or impressionism or some sort of more contemporary photoshop process or simply painterly ness, amongst others. These paintings are thought to give the viewer access to inhabiting the point of view of the artist as the artist sees, feels, and thinks about the world. Nikko Mueller's painting of Disneyland can be seen as an example of this kind of painting.
Many artists today do more than one thing simultaneously on one piece. While nikko's work views the structure of our society from an aerial view in relief, painstakingly constructed with paint and tape and xacto knives, he is also making a painting that could be seen as super controlled lines and lumps, made with a restricted palette, that dot and crisscross the picture plane.
But I think instead I should write about what it is about each artist's work that made me fall in love. Curating is a labor of love for me, colored by reverie, with the fevered terseness of obsession. Nikko Mueller is my studio mate and I have painted on the opposite sides of a wall for more than two years. How do I say that sometimes the arc of one of his lines makes me breathless? His perfectionism in making the line exactly what he set out for it to be, raising the line above the surface, yet somehow arriving at something that looks less like it was made and more like it was born.
In 1993, I worked at a coffee shop in San Francisco. I was a barista, although I hadn't heard that word yet. Nina Bovasso was a painting major at the san francisco art institute and so was I. She was a senior and I was a sophomore. She was one of the painters at the school radiated an air of mystery and importance. It seemed clear to me that she had some sort of secret or understood something about painting that I didn't know and she carried herself that way. She hung some of her paintings at the coffee shop where I worked and one day came in while I was behind the counter. I felt lucky to have an opportunity to talk to her about her paintings and I asked her about them. What Nina said to me was, "I turn my brain inside out". And to me it looked like that was true. I received her words like someone seeking enlightenment being in the presence of a sage. Her paintings then were similar in some ways to what they are now: polka dots and spirals and splatters... The particular Nina Bovasso painting that we have in our show is one that she made by a process she calls "reverse accretion". For this painting, she made several small drawings of flowers and lines and spots on a white ground on a piece of plastic. After they dried, she peeled them off the plastic and adhered them to the surface of the painting in reverse. Again to me they had the look of something that had always been there and when I peer into them they give me many thoughts and questions and each questioned is answered right there within the painting in a way that seems similar to that way of thinking in mathematics where if you take the number one and divide it in half, and then divide that in half again, and divide that in half, forever, even though you get a smaller and smaller number you never get to zero. Nina Bovasso's paintings describe infinity to me.
Conscious, slowed down, all in one place gathered together, phenomena..
Everything all together so that it can be comprehended.
Better than a bottle of nail polish, which does have its place within the natural order,
The cosmos, somehow the end of the tail of a fractal, undeniable, existing, and I guess if you look at that bottle of nail polish somehow you might be able to see how it makes sense as how all the parts of the universe are articulated within it, but somehow paintings really condense the parts, coalesce to describe much more of everything at once, to cause sensations of being in the presence of the uncanny, meeting your doppelganger, having some sort of wordless communication with an object.
I have never met Susie Rosmarin in person. I have only met her paintings. Since the organizing of this show I have now exchanged a few emails with her and talked on the phone once. The painting of hers that I met was hanging in a friend's apartment. It was a small galaxy painting in shades of off white. The overall impression of the painting was somehow warm and friendly. I was in the room with the painting at informal get-togethers maybe 3 or 4 times before it really dawned on me that her painting was perfect.. I think it started maybe the 2nd time I got to be with the painting. I looked over and I was like, "hmmmm." There is something about that painting which is a big full empty space. I don't know precisely what it is about that painting still, but I new that I loved the painting. I think it affected me more on a physical level than on a visual level but certainly some of that is because of what the overwhelmingly complex yet simple way the painting presents itself. Her galaxy paintings, like Nikko Mueller's paintings, are constructed with tape and knives. Each line is a built up plateau of paint. If I were a detective working on how this painting were made I would think that each line was made by the outside edges of two pieces of tape. The paint is the space in-between the tape. There are many of these lines in one of her paintings. They crisscross in a way that is so complex that even though all the steps are superficial (right there on the surface of the canvas in plain view) it is difficult, if not impossible to ascertain the steps that she followed to get the result that she arrived at. When approaching one of her paintings I have a natural inclination to try to count and sort the methodology behind which line when where was applied when to unravel the central kernel around which the painting is built, however since I do not have asperger's syndrome I cannot keep track of a layering of more than 7 systems at one time so my train of thought disintegrates into something of a dusty milky way of submission and enjoyment of existing within a molecular system and not being able to comprehend it all at once. Maybe with some grid paper and a pencil where I sit down and make notes and draw graphs and diagrams with arrows pointing from one sentence to another I might be able to make sense of or make a map to how to make a Susie Rosmarin painting, although I think my instructions would be confounded and much more incoherent that the simple act of being with the painting. If the words did not get away from me then they would surely just get in the way.
I think that Heather Brown does not make her paintings while upside down, with one leg and one arm tied behind her back, while laying on her stomach with an eye patch over one eye, painting with a stick, although if I found out that she did I would not be surprised. I know from heather brown's drawings that the world around her is quietly and carefully observed. When I look at them I can feel something of the same kind of tone in all of them.. Maybe it feels to me like a yellow and green color, exactly like the experience of standing outside, under a leafy tree, with the sun dappling down through the leaves onto and around you. Heather's paintings are more strange and unreal. In her paintings she is much more involved with color, which she puts on, wipes off, covers, applies sometimes to what looks like a taped edge but more often not, but not in a clean or neat way.. They always look as if there were some sort of struggle to articulate something which usually seems like a physical sensation and in the paintings it also looks as if when she started painting she may have had some sort of general image in her mind's eye to paint but by the time she got there it looks very much altered from where it began. Heather Brown's paintings seem to contain some sort of experience that is divorced from something observed because of this. The paintings have shapes and lines and colors and sometimes lines that are shapes. Some of the areas are somewhat flat color; other times there are indications of volume and the paintings use overlapping areas to make the illusion of space but also warm and cool color relationships. Many of the paintings tend to be of one overall value, which adds to the sense of being engulfed by some sort of world that is not the day-to-day world we live in but maybe an interior psychic reality that is parallel.
It's tiny, it's huge!
In a painting, the size of things is up for grabs.
Maybe you could have a tiny painting, like six inches square, and within that picture plane you could have a dirty gritty yellowish greenish field that goes from the top of the painting to leave a tiny wedge of the palest blue. I don't think any of the paintings in this show will look like the one described, but because painting is not just the size of the canvas and the relationship between that and the viewer, that small yellow area could be huge, and when looked at could occupy the same space that the whole world occupies in the mind of the viewer. It is focus that makes scale unless there are actual objects rendered within the picture. When heather brown paints a six inch person in the middle of a fuscia octagon, does that mean that a real live human being is actually 6 inches, or so far away that they look six inches in perspective, say 2 blocks away, or does that locate the viewer, empathizing with the figure, inside of his own mind seeing the smaller within image of himself inside of felt scenarios?
Ok, so I went to the LA art fair to see JP Munro's painting. This is a vertical painting that was mostly green and red. The green looked to be, while not a realistic depiction, something like a deep forest of trees. Towards the top of the painting the green gives way to yellow suggesting sky and towards the bottom to a dark blue that suggests water and the forest depths. Overlaid on top of the deep receding ground are painted arcs of flat red color. Similarly to heather brown's paintings there is an overall denial of the lightest lights and the darkest darks, which feels to me like being enclosed. The red arcs or half moon shapes of JP's painting run into one another and are almost painted to look like the ink on paper that results from printing a woodcut. Because of the color red and the flat way that it is applied, in a lacey way all over the entire surface of the painting, in an unevenly distributed way, most of the red paint seems to be the exact surface of the canvas, which is similar to the edge of a mirror where dust would collect. This red on the surface of the painting makes the green in the back seem even further away and the red acts as a screen where anything that might be some sort of landscape or scene in the green is obscured. Even though the red paint is applied to look like a woodcut and the green like a landscape, all certainty of meaning or event or happening within the pictoral space of the painting is obscured.
Red and green... I saw Mark Grotjahn's painting Green Butterfly Red at the Painting in Tongues show at MoCA about a year ago and when I encountered it I stopped and stared and my head spun. This painting was really really really really green, a big green painting. The paint on the painting was thick, really thick, like ¾'s of and inch thick.
The reason I know that the paint on the painting is that thick is because dug out of the surface (or masked off?) is Mark Grotjahn's name and his name is red. The red is a bright shiny oily opaque red, as is the green. Mark's paintings seem to me to have been arrived at by a tug of war with extreme restraint and then jumping away to try to find more free terrain, between the masks and the butterflies, blossoming into masks mated with butterflies, resembling their origins but being a whole new animal. Mark's recent butterfly paintings are really interesting products of a fiercely restricted framework, limited palette and severely constrained format where there was just too much passion and pushing against the edges of his self imposed limits that the paintings burst out and became puffy, exaggerated and then sprouted his signature.
I've been obsessed with Mary Heilmann's paintings for a long, long time. Her paint crawls all over her canvasses almost like dye in a bowl of water that easter eggs are dipped into. The paint gets on the canvas but it seems in the way that the paint crawls around the sides of the canvas that the canvas just moved through a web of paint in the air and the paint got on the canvas as an imprint from somewhere else rather than being applied to the canvasses. This is not to say that the compositions are in any way imperfect or accidental, on the contrary what I'm saying is that the paint looks again like some sort of natural occurrence that the canvas happened to be at the right time and the right place and collected some of that real stuff. The beautiful Mary Heilmann painting that we have in our show is a small canvas covered with a yellow ochre-like color. It looks like she used the handle of a paintbrush to draw lines into the wet paint. The lines in the wet paint are simple. The suggest looking at sand as it goes away from you to the water with grasses cropping up on the way there, although the lines do not get much closer together as they recede so the viewer is given a perspective that is more akin to a mind's eye view of the sand going to the ocean, one where you would be hovering over an expanse of sand from maybe ten feet in the air, still at an angle where you would be facing the sea. I might be reading a lot into the painting that isn't there. It also looks a bit like a quick sketch of bricks in a wall. I would not believe that the painting was intended only as a collection of lines with no space and no reference to landscape however.. When I am with Mary's paintings I feel as if I can really breathe better. I can really feel my heart beat and my blood flow.
One day last year I got an email from Glenn Goldberg. I hadn't spoken to him in a long time. He was one of my teachers when I studied for a semester in new york. He is a man's man, hard-hitting painter. When we would talk in my studio I felt like I was talking with a star baseball player. He is really in the thick of painting and he has been forever. Glenn has painted mandalas and flowers and butterflies. He is all about the paint and the composition. This email he sent me asked how I was doing. He expressed that he hoped that my work is going well because he thinks I'm a good painter. Attached to that email was a blurry photograph of one of his mandalas. It was so beautiful and moving that I showed it to my studio mate and really just kept thinking about it and looking at it. That jpeg picture was one of the catalysts for putting together this show.
Painting is love and poetry and pure thought on canvas. Painting can do something that nothing else can do. This is because painting is physical visual and conceptual and paintings do not have any specific defined function that they are required to perform.
Brenna Youngblood's work dances all over the key issues of painting and representation. She uses multiple surfaces including large pieces of discarded paneling or bathroom linoleum. She paints in many ways, with brushes, with spray paint, with tape. Mostly she paints large areas of mottled color with sharp edges that delineate some sort of interior space, but sometimes she illusionistically paints an object like a light bulb on to the canvas. She is fluent in many kinds of image making so that light bulb that she painted onto the canvas or the linoleum or whatever suits her fancy as a painting surface, could be painted to look like deconstructed shapes, more blue than a real light bulb. Brenna also affixes actual photographs of objects and people on canvas within the painted spaces, and then perhaps she might make a flower shape out of cut out bits of photographs and stick them on a canvas and add some paint that drips down the canvas both to give the flower a stem and also to bisect the canvas. All means of visual and physical description of space are within Brenna's grasp and she mixes and matches them freely to make paintings that have space and flatness and the poetry and emotion in a drip as it makes its way all the way down the surface.
Rebecca Morris, articulate without image, falls solidly in the abstract camp. Sometimes they fall into mandala or medallion but usually in a really garish way. Rebecca's paintings, like mark grotjahn's, have really pushed out against their limits and constraints, although the constraints with Rebecca's paintings are not as obvious as mark's. She uses spray paint and acrylic paint but mostly she uses oil paint and oil mediums. Rebecca's paintings use the things you're supposed to use in ways you're not supposed to use them. For example she uses stand oil as a medium to make big bubbled lumpy areas. Stand oil takes months to dry and is the consistency of thick honey. The top edge where the stand oil is exposed to air dries first and the stuff under the dried skin dries more slowly so as the under part of the stand oil blob dry, the top edge becomes wrinkly like the surface of a brain. She makes these blobs with the canvas flat on the ground so it doesn't run, but when she picks it up and hangs it on the wall many weeks or months after application, the blob puckers and sometimes bursts spilling blobs of clear and colored goo onto the canvas that later dries. Rebecca has ridiculous mottoes like, "if it's not working, spray paint it gold," which she does!! She also makes use of disturbing and ugly surfaces and color combinations that look to flaunt really bad taste and fashion, in a really conscious and aware painting. A Rebecca Morris painting is a thing that's hard to swallow that the experience of viewing is a confrontation with an aggressively loud and proud object.
And then there's me... for a long time I have been slipping in and out of abstraction and realism. When I say abstraction, I mean abstract expressionism. When I say abstract expressionism, I mean an awareness of the object ness and flatness of the picture plane. I usually don't make that the most obvious part of the painting because hide the lines that I paint on the canvas within the realistic interiors and figurative paintings that I make, however my awareness of the edges of the painting and my conscious choices regarding centering an image or coming up to the edges but not getting there or ending a room to start another room towards the bottom of the picture plane are all related to composition and a painting as an object and not a window with which to view the world through, although I do also use a painting in that way, as a frame to a view finder. My paintings are often very large so that the viewer is inside of my painting. The subject matter of my paintings is always psychology in some way. Sometimes my window/ object picture plane is instead a mirror. The mirror is usually a mirror that does not give the viewer a view of himself... so it's a mirror that doesn't mirror. The painting for this show that I am making is a realistic rendering of a shattered window overlaid with a pink crocheted web that sits on top of the cracks in the glass. What is on the other side of the window is not revealed; instead the window reflects the sky, the clouds, some trees.
Katie Grinnan, sculptor, will be making plastic and bamboo tree parts with images on the parts of the tree sculpture. The images on the tops of the crafted leaves will not be the same as the ones underneath the fronds. This piece will interact in some way with the palm tree stump that is in the small porch walkway behind, yet part of honor's gallery. Like all Katie's work, this piece has an uncanny way of articulation the sun, the moon the seasons. In the way that it is different from a different viewpoint, the parts that are in the light, or known about are different from the hidden, but the hidden are still there nonetheless.. Katie's work has a way of intervening with nature, changing it in some way to give nature the kind of conscious awareness and communicative language that a human might have. It's almost as if Katie grafts herself and a tree in this piece, or gives the tree qualities that she possesses.
This show came together in an organic intuitive way. Basically all of these works are works that I love and want, want to have or be a part of in some way, and then because I am open to seeing and learning new and unexpected things there was no constraint placed on what work might go together, more it was just a matter of something feeling right, or if someone in the show gave me a piece that wasn't quite what I expected, it changed the tone of the show and then that suggested different people to include as I put the show together. It started with seeing Susie Rosmarin's painting in my friend's apartment. I really wanted that painting. Wanted to be around it, wanted to have it be in my home and to have it be part of me. Then there was Glenn Goldberg's email and the beautiful magic blurry image he sent me over the internet, that even though not a real painting, but an image, combinded with it's blurriness which I think made it communicate to me even stronger, made it into a piece separate from what was originally photographed. after that my mind is always on Nina's work, my studio mate Nikko and I with our late night painting pep talks and how we do the absurd thing of talking about color and shape and how we are so involved in each other's processes, JP's painting at the la art fair that made me swoon, aghast, couldn't believe what I was looking at, filed far back in my mind, my awe at Gark Grotjahn's green butterfly, Mary Heilmann who is a true sage of incredible nets of living surface, so physical and transitory that they are hardly even physical at all, to Brenna who just came into my warehouse looking for a studio, who once we started talking about paint and when I looked at her images on the web I realized they were perfect and asked her to be in the show even though I though maybe there were already too many people and then the goddess of abstraction, Rebecca Morris, a painter who's paintings are way too smart and stupid for most people, my cracked reflection, and what would a painting show be without a sculptor (Katie Grinnan).