Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dawn Frasch

Dawn holding her loyal studiomate, Bacon!

There is such a complete sensory overload in Dawn's maximalist paintings, that I began noticing so many specific details later in the photographs I had taken that I had missed during our visit! I love Dawn's fusion of the art historical with the Slasher film aesthetic. There is a levity and a self-awareness to the gore that Dawn orchestrates, and just as for Godard, "It's not blood, it's some red."

Is that a green, pig-faced, absinthe-cherub-demon having a make-out take-out with a dolphin? Why, yes it is!!! Upon further inspection, this scene turns out to be a menage trois between a dolphin, a cherub, and a cherub demon!! As you may already know, gentle reader,  I'm always a sucker for anything relating to interspecies polyamory, but something about this moment in particular filled me with inextinguishable mirth!

This is Dawn's interpretation of Géricault’s Raft of the MedusaGéricault never lived to see his thirty-forth birthday, but his iconic painting influenced artists as diverse as Max Beckmann to Kippenberger to Dana Schutz to Thomas Hirschhorn, to create their own versions of the tragic exemplification of hopelessness and anguish. In contrast to Dawn's depiction, Géricault refrained from painting the violence, murder, and cannibalism that had actually taken place on the French ship, choosing instead to depict the crew members' desperate cries for help.  Kippenberger knew he was dying when he chose to paint his self-portrait depicting himself as each of the crew members of the  Raft of the Medusa . It's one of the most painful, heart-wrenching series he ever made.
Visiting Dawn's studio  reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Fellini on Fellini:

"Nothing is sadder than laughter; nothing more beautiful , more magnificent, more uplifting and enriching than the terror of deep despair. I believe that every man as long as he lives is a prisoner of this terrible fear within which all prosperity is condemned to founder, but which preserves even in its deepest abyss that hopeful freedom which makes it possible for him to smile in seemingly hopeless situations. That's why the intention of the real- that is, the deepest and most honest writers of comedy is by no means to amuse us, but wantonly to tear open our most painful scars so that we feel them all the more strongly. This applies to Shakespeare and 
Molière as well as to Terence and Aristophanes. On the other hand there is no true tragic poet- I'm thinking of Euripedes, Goethe, Dante- who does not understand how to keep a certain ironic distance from even his most terrible sufferings."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Emily Ludwig Shaffer

Emily showing the way!!!
Emily has an ongoing series of these chameleon paintings, all of which are the same scale and are an identical depiction of the chameleon, in an unchanged pose. It's almost as if Emily is conducting a scientific experiment in her approach to this series; the chameleon is the control group and her countless approaches to the painting are the variable. With this painting in particular, I appreciate the witty ease with which she pokes fun at the ubiquitous grid. The seriality of the repetitive forms allude to Warhol's silkscreens, although they are different in that they are hand painted and directly addressing the idea of originality.    

The chameleon becomes a symbol for both art and the artist. The idea that the more each painting changes the more it stays the same, manifests itself through the repetition of the chameleon's form. The chameleon is imprisoned in the land of infinite possibility. There is a critique of the idea of artistic freedom that also emerges, because no matter how much each painting changes from one to the next, the interminable image of the chameleon still mockingly surfaces. 
The chameleon is the antithesis of authenticity, easily blending in to its environment. This desire to be authentic and original always seems to be a preoccupation for so many artists, and it continues to be a clichéd struggle even in these postmodern times of ours, despite the fact that we no longer acknowledge originality as a valid intellectual position. In Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, the character of the successful writer who is based on Huxley, Philip Quarlesis continually preoccupied with being a fraud; nothing more than a configuration of other writers' thoughts and innovations. In Fellini's 8 1/2, we have a similar example in Marcello Mastroianni's character of Guido Anselmi, a famous film director, who delivers a speech on how he wanted things to be different in the last film he made and how he wanted to make something "that would put an end to lies." Woody Allen later satirized 8 1/2 and the proverbial artist's struggle in Stardust Memories, with the character of the acclaimed film director, Sandy Bates, who is misunderstood by his fans who prefer his earlier, light-hearted comedies in comparison to his current, darker dramas.

I love Emily's wine glasses!!! There is something so funny, poignant, and deeply human about them. Although she uses the Modernist trope of employing a simplified and confident black contour line, there is an awkward humor and self-consciousness in the wine glasses that gives the drawings an endearing quality.

Amazing. Is it wine or is it sausage? Who doesn't love a good sausage? I'm Polish, so I'm particularly partial to the kielbasa, especially after it has been aerated and allowed to breathe! I personally prefer a full-bodied, mature sausage, not too oaky, but definitely one with a complex bouquet.

I mentioned the Fran Leibowitz quote during our visit, because it reminded me so much of Emily's wine drawings. "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine." 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Michael Mahalchick

Mahalchick made these awesome new pieces using Crest White Strips! I was reminded of seeing the Gehard Richter retrospective years ago at the Art Institute with my friend Stephanie, and how she was appalled by people checking themselves out in the shiny surfaces of his reflective, minimal paintings!  There is an idea in psychology that seeking out one's reflection in the mirror is actually an act of self-protection and self-affirmation, quelling deeper fears of mortality. I learned that as a young coed from my psychology professor, so it must be true!

According to DFW, there are two types of narcissists; first degree and second degree, and all people belong to either one group or the other. First degree narcissists check themselves out in the mirror unabashedly, completely impervious to who may or may not be watching them. Second degree narcissists steal furtive glimpses at themselves in the mirror when they think no one's watching. 

In all his work, Mahalchick seems to be raising a mirror to his audience. When I look at any of his collages I immediately consider Michael's connection to the ephemera he uses, my own relationship to the objects, as well as the broader socioeconomic implications of the work.  Mahalchick does not sugar coat anything, and in doing so, we become aware of the sickening and inescapable bombardment of commercialism that exists on all levels of our lives, and that is often just as prevalent in the art world. Do we really need more shiny, pretty, polished things to distract us from larger questions of existence? Many would argue yes!! In The Gay Science, Nietzsche writes about how when an artist becomes too slick, polished, and virtuosic in his or her craft, it is a form of lying; a way of concealing who one really is by hiding under the glossy veneer of technique. 
Mahalchick toys with our expectations. Here there are no comforting, decorative cues we are trained to expect in most art, other than a fragment from a stained glass lamp; a symbol of domestic warmth and comfort. Everything else, with the exception of the painted flag stencil, would be typically regarded as trash. In the banal reality of these items, we are forced to reevaluate our notions of value and meaning and how we project these beliefs onto inanimate objects. By placing these discarded articles onto the ubiquitous and clichéd, white canvas, Mahalchick is elevating the value of things that would be otherwise be deemed completely worthless. 

It is important for Mahalchick to maintain the integrity of the original object, which is why he never alters the objects that he uses. He also talked about his interest in the transformation of an ordinary thing into a work of art, which isn't an actual transformation although it gives the illusion of being one. These perceptions belong to the same value game; objects aren't transformed when placed in the arena of art, it's our conception of them that changes.

Like much of Mahalchick's work, this mise-en-scène addresses time fleeting with pathos and humor. Aside from playfully referencing Haim Steinbach and Koons, it also becomes a contemporary momento mori. The antiquated zip disk points to how provisional and ever changing knowledge and ideas are, but it also becomes a metaphor for our own shelf life and impermanence. The psychologist, Howard Gardner, wrote that Freud wasn't a megalomaniac because he was aware of his own mortality. I often think about that line. Any awareness of death has a way of robbing us of our hubris. Feigned humility is repulsive, but a genuine awareness of one's place in the world is the embodiment of resigning oneself to reality. The Buddha was definitely onto something with his belief in the joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.
An incredible piece, an older work of Michael's. The record behind it is The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers.

The best close-up I could take for you, gentle reader! I took about thirty photographs and no matter how much I reconfigured my elbows against my bosoms, the shots still came out blurry!!

Tempus Fugit! Enjoy yourself, it's much later than you think!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Matt Jones

There is a sense that almost any otherworldly and inexplicable phenomenon can take place within Matt's universe! This ostensible potential for anything to happen along with Matt's exuberant punk aesthetic hearkens back to a time in adolescence when everything was new, exciting, and the future was limitless. Just as through the lens of Physics we become aware of how wildly inaccurate many of our presumptions about the world are, through the eyes of Matt, we become mindful of the unfathomable intricacy that exists even in the most banal of moments.
Matt offers us a revitalizing respite from the prevailing flavor of our times; he re-mystifies the world for us. It's hard to believe that there are academics and artists who still talk about "the demystification of art!" That's such a dull, pretentious and outdated conversation to have. As if anyone in the art speaking world really needs to be elucidated on the monkeyshines of Art! Let's place a permanent moratorium on any conversation pertaining to either the demystification of art or the anti-heroic.
Beings emerging out of portals!!! For these plywood sculptures, Matt uses the same methods that street artists use when pasting posters to walls. The DIY method along with the economical and accessible materials Matt uses in this body of work, embody the inclusive sense of community in the punk ethos.  

After being exposed to Matt's infectious enthusiasm and optimism, all I wanted to do was  rush back to my own studio and start painting!!