Sunday, March 3, 2013

Joshua Abelow

The genius at work!!!
Joshua came into my life when I was still a fledgling student at Cranbrook! He quickly became an important mentor figure for me. Joshua taught me how to fly, and then immediately after, he stole all of my ideas!! When I confronted him about it in his studio, all he could say is, "Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal!" What can I say? He stole those words, too. 
Although Joshua's paintings are great in and of themselves, his highly methodical and intriguing process does add yet another dimension to the work.  There is something in the intricate systems he employs and the emphasis that he places on the importance of the idea of the painting before it is made that is redolent of Sol LeWitt.  Only, unlike Lewitt, Abelow is a one-man operation and he has no qualms about reintroducing the artist's hand once he's achieved his initial plan, allowing subtle drips to rupture the seamlessness of the hard-edged abstraction.
Joshua told me that when he was a student at Cranbrook he was very frustrated with his work and wanted to start over from scratch.  He said the best way to get started was simply to squeeze out different colors, mix them together, apply them to the canvas, and record the results.  He made many paintings by layering paint this way and filled up a number of little black notebooks with the results.  “It was very trial and error. “  After graduating in 2008, Joshua moved to Berlin and began using these notes on color to make small abstract paintings.The Berlin work culminated in a series of “gold paintings” which he told me he made because “gold is a good investment in difficult economic times.“
 RenĂ© Magritte
The Subjugated Reader, 1928

Joshua bought this postcard while he was visiting the Magritte Museum in Belgium. He enjoys having it up because of the connection between Magritte's painting and the relationship to language in his own work.
These paintings are going to be part of a new installation of cell-phone number paintings titled, “Call Me Abstract.”
Mr. Smiley Face!!! Doesn't he look dashing in his top hat? How can he be so hateful lookin so stylish, especially with all them endorphins coursing through him?! I love how it looks like Josh, painted Mr. Smiley Face using ketchup and mustard! The smiley face is a lot like God, in that if the smiley face did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Harvey Ball invented the smiley face in 1963, and he was paid $45 for it. This is yet another example of an artist’s ideas being shamelessly stolen by a certain SCHMABELOW!
Life is Art and Art is Life. Do the paintings inform the Cheerios or do the Cheerios inform the paintings? The way in which the separation between Joshua's art and his own life often seems indistinguishable reminds me a lot of John Dewey's Art As Experience. Dewey believed that experience is our most important way of engaging with the world and he was against any attempts at elevating art above every day reality. If John Dewey were alive today I imagine that he would be a huge fan of Joshua's paintings, and that the two would become best buds!
Joshua also runs Art Blog Art Blog, which he updates daily. Thanks to his fresh perspective as well as his encyclopedic breadth of knowledge about art, his blog regularly draws a huge and growing following. BLOG HIM HERE
DOWN WITH YOUR ART!!!
  No, really.  
This fantastic little painting is by Gene Beery, whom Joshua interviewed recently.  Before our studio visit, Joshua suggested we do some role-playing and read the interview aloud.  Joshua played the role of Joshua Abelow and I played the role of Gene Beery. Since we are both such great actors, it was an exceptional performance!!
Two relics from the past!  This beautiful ceramic jar is a birthday present I bought Joshua while I was camping down the Pacific Coast Highway with my friend Julie over five years ago. The jar possessed a certain je nais se quoi that immediately reminded me of Joshua.  It was VERY expensive, but Schmabelow is totally worth it!! The detail of the painting in the background is a nude painted in 1995 when Joshua was eighteen.  Notice the striking similarities between the two works of art!!
Joshua's drawings are so different from his paintings, but both are indicative of his methodical and unconventional mind. The drawings are organic and more intuitive than his highly systematic, geometric paintings. Although he starts out with a specific intention in both mediums, the one-shot process he follows in the drawings imbues them with a sense of spontaneity and risk. He never erases, so if a drawing isn't successful, he just throws it away.

Pictured above, we have the ultimate orgy; A couple of sexy ladies, Jackson Pollock, and some dapper gentleman wearing a top hat, a pipe, and a hard-on!
Joshua's recent drawings have become more layered and surreal. There's an ebullient energy springing from his expressive line that makes these drawings very enjoyable to experience first hand. The infectious pleasure and amusement that Joshua derives in making his work also makes these drawings so rewarding to look at.


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