Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Osamu Kobayashi

These are Osamu's newest paintings. He explained how his process has evolved from a series of premeditated, deliberated moves into a more fluid and improvised approach. Osamu begins his paintings with no predetermined plan, his paintings develop out of a succession of impromptu interactions between the paint and the forms on canvas. Through this highly personalized and intuitive approach, a record of time emerges.

What interests me most about Osamu's paintings is how two conceptions of time manifest; Osamu accesses the universal through the personal. (*Fear not gentle reader, when referring to the universal,  I am not attempting to push some silly, outmoded and spurious meta-narrative on you, I embrace postmodern dogma fully and unabashedly. When I refer to the universal, I am referring to an idea of time that goes beyond the limitations of human bias and understanding.) The forms in Osamu's often operate like afterimages, optically altering any constancy and undermining any supposedly complete explanation. Within the absence of delineation, time operates like memory; past and present overlap resisting any neat division. This occurs especially in the two large paintings Osamu is standing in between in the previous photograph as well as the painting pictured above on the left.
These grey paintings employ a different language than the previous body of work. In their physicality, they become less experiential and more concrete. 

 Looking at this series, Jasper Johns, the great grandaddy of grey paintings comes to mind. The Johns' grey paintings show at the Art Institute was a fantastic show. What I loved about that show was that Jasper Johns managed to turn painting into a philosophical pursuit removed from its solipsistic, self-congratulatory history. Johns grey paintings are a battleground for espousing Buddhist beliefs in a historically myopic, Occidental medium. There is a violence in many of Johns' grey paintings that belies their introspective calm.Osamu's grey paintings contain within them more of a self-consciousness specific to our generation of painters, and have a quiet, contemplative quality that I respond to. They are also frangible despite their thickness, which is also a reflection of the current milieu.
This is an especially gorgeous painting in person. I associate black monochromatic paintings with a somber Thanatos that resists the vitality of bright, expressive color. Some of my favorite paintings are black paintings. The allure of the color black has seduced artists as diverse as Goya, Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, and Ellen Gallagher, to name a few. Goya's famous Black paintings are one of the most haunting and psychologically intense ruminations on the human condition. Goya painted them toward the end of his life when he was completely deaf and confronting his own mortality. They contain within them an understanding of the inexorable brutalities of life that most of us would prefer to avoid, but that also paradoxically offer us solace in their maniacal brand of satire.  Laughter always provides us with the greatest form of release. It was Lao Tzu who said, "As soon as you have made a thoughtLaugh at it."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Molly Lowe

Diana and I visited Molly's Williamsburg studio.

Krit recently introduced us to her work and we loved it so much that Molly is now in our next show!!
Save the date!!! Sept 28 

When Molly was in Singapore, this ubiquitous stock image was used in all the massage parlors. Molly added the knife, manipulating the image into an image of a back-stabber. She explained that in her photoshopped collage, just as in the idiom, the victim is at her most vulnerable and most relaxed just before the backstabber betrays her.  
At first, I thought this was just a typical make-out take-out, but I quickly realized it was much more than that! Look closer, gentle reader, it's two images in one. Do you see it? When I realized what I was looking at, I couldn't stop laughing and I began referring to this piece as "nature's dirty little trick." First, nature lures its unsuspecting victims into a make-out take-out, and if the participants don't out-trick nature at her own game, they are left with a freshly-formed mammalian of their very own! I enjoy how this image flips back and forth, and how the idea of time is ambiguous and mysterious. It is unclear whether the infant or the lovers are an image of the past or the future. What is clear is that time marches on relentlessly with or without our approval, and that the continuation of our species carries on incessantly, impervious to our own individual existence. The collage also simultaneously exemplifies two of the most intimate and instinctual bonds any of us will ever experience; first with our mothers and then with our lovers. 
Here, Molly is creating a catacomb. I love the references to anthropology in Molly's work as well as how she deals with the incomprehensible nature of time and addresses our greatest fear, which is death. Molly's work reminded me of Ernest Becker's Denial of Death. I've been reading that book on and off for the past three years, somehow I can never bring myself to finishing it, which may have something to do with the fact that I know how it ends. The premise of the book is that we humans live in a constant state of anxiety and fear since we are aware of our own finitude, and that our greatest accomplishments are merely methods we devise to distract ourselves from our own death. According to Becker it is more neurotic and damaging to ourselves to deny the inevitable. Becker received a Pulitzer Prize for Denial of Death, six weeks after he died.
On his own death bed, as he was dying of cancer, Becker wrote about how he was confronted with testing out his own thesis first hand. I can't even begin to imagine such a confrontation with my own life ending, and it may have something to do with the idea behind the title of Damien Hirst's shark which is The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. GREATEST TITLE EVER. Who can top that? Close second- Gauguin. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Although to be honest, I don't care at all about where we come from, I'm more interested in what are we and where are we going. 
 Molly has the rare ability to transform the banal and everyday into psychologically riveting objects. She made this sculpture by cutting up laundry detergent bottles while she was at Skowhegan last year. After visiting Molly's studio I was reminded of how strange, fascinating, as well as disturbing and unfathomable everyday existence actually is.    
Molly's work taps into the sublime by accessing the suspension of reason in the face of the incomprehensible.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Korakrit Arunanondchai

Krit spent his summer in the wild woods of Skowhegan!!!
This new series that Krit began during his summer in Maine, stresses spectacular effects and contains a documentation of the performative aspects of its creation. First, Krit sets fire to the painting, photographs the flame, and then reworks the photograph back into the original painting. 
By drawing attention to tension between the real and the imagined, Krit manages to distance himself from the putative tradition of abstraction.The end result is a witty commentary apposite to the conversation of what it means to be painting now.


There is a romantic, tumultuous streak running through all of Krit's work. A metaphor for how creation cannot exist without destruction emerges within the Dionysian dissonance of these paintings.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. 

Robert Frost