Monday, December 30, 2013

Austin Lee

Austin's been making such fresh and exciting paintings!!! I was so inspired and blown away by visiting his studio. 
This incredible gem is going to be in the pink show that I am putting together at Cathouse FUNeral!!  Our opening will be January 18.  
Both the subject matter and composition of this painting remind me of Bacon's paintings of the boxer, George Dyer. I love how performative it is. The boxing arena becomes a stage. There is a tension between the isolation of the boxer and the faceless mob. Having just been knocked down, the boxer is vulnerable to the judgments of his audience.  
Close-up of the crowd. The painting also has a biographical aspect, since Austin was a boxer in the past.

This painting is electric!! Austin is an example of a painter who utilizes technology as a tool, rather than making it the sole subject of his work. There's a sense of freedom, complexity and curiosity in Austin's work that distinguishes him from much of the current trend of paintings referencing the digital realm and technology. 
The element of caricature as well as the structure and palette of Austin's painting remind me of George Grosz. Grosz's depictions of the Weimar aristocracy, drunks, and prostitutes are among my all time favorite works of art. Like Goya, Grosz showed people as they are rather than how people imagine themselves to be or how they would like to be seen.
 The rawness and brutality of this painting reminds me of the utter despair of Goya's drowning dog that hangs in the Prado. When looking at this painting, I can only begin to imagine the vulnerability and dread of being this demon's patient.
This diptych has such a visceral intensity, that it brings tears to my eyes. The thick opacity of the paint application on the authoritative physician imbues him with power and certainty. The hazy technique Austin used to portray the patient; emphasizes her fragility and uncertainty, a stark contrast to the concrete physicality of the physician. The tiny dots that stand in for her eyes almost fall into the depths of her skull, an implication that in her time of extreme confusion and fear, the patient prefers to turn her vision inward.
The tears have such a compelling and tangible, physical presence, that they act as a barrier separating the viewer from the helpless woman. It calls to mind all those portraits that Picasso painted of Dora Maar crying. When Kippenberger learned that he was dying, he painted a series of Picasso's women crying over his own death. People were surprised by how beautifully and skillfully Kippenberger had painted this last series, few people knew that he was capable of such technical excellence. Beauty and technical facility was something that Kippenberger was deeply suspicious of his entire life, because he was more interested in expressing something more human and honest. Nietzsche writes about how virtuosity and a mastery of technique are a disguise that artists use to hide beneath. Anyone can become a skilled technician; it's much harder to become an artist.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Adam Green

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Adam's spectacular Manhattan studio.
I was a fan of Adam's music long before I knew him through his visual art. He is a brilliant musician, and his quick wit along with his mordant sense of irony was something that I responded to immediately. I was excited to discover his paintings during his solo show at The Hole a couple of summers ago. 
Adam has another upcoming show at The Hole called, "Hot Chicks," where he'll be showing his new drawings alongside the works of other artists that he selected for the show. The opening will be January 1st.

Adam's transgressive use of humor, as well as the bustling exuberance, movement, and rhythm are reminiscent of Robert Colescott. Colescott always had a set of drums in his studio and grew up in a family of musicians. There is a distinctive lyrical fluidity in the paintings of visual artists who also play music; in the same way it's easy to spot the dancers in a yoga class, based on the way that dancers approach the technical aspects of each posture.

I started rereading Dave Hickey's Air Guitar, and his description of Donald Duck in the essay, Pontormo's Rainbow, reminded me of Adam's Donald Duck paintings. Hickey describes Donald Duck as being the only Disney character who had "any soul, any edge," and he likens him to being the Dizzy Gillespie of cartoon characters!
We talked about the decadent nature of Garfield the cat, which also keeps reappearing in Adam's work. Growing up I had the entire collection of Garfield books, which had taken me years to complete and that I would read every Saturday morning. At age 12, my new puppy devoured and shredded each and every last page in my entire collection. I burst into tears shortly after discovering the annihilation. I felt like my childhood had been eaten. Eventually, I rationalized the horror and destruction by realizing that when it came down to it, I loved my dog more than Garfield. 
Garfield was huge for our generation. It's not difficult to understand his mass appeal among the children of the eighties, not only was he a symbol of decadence but he was also an anti-authoritarian figure as well. He did whatever he wanted and listened to no one, which definitely appeals to a child's fantasies or anyone's fantasies for that matter! Children are always being reprimanded and controlled by adults, often for merely telling the truth or just being themselves. 
Although Adam's subject matter shares a connection with pop art, his approach also shares a history with Art Brut and Arte Povera. The hybridization of combining pop cultural elements with expressionism, is likewise exemplified in both the paintings of Joyce Pensato and Llyn Foulkes.

Adam had a solo show of all yellow paintings this past summer in Rome. 
This painting was my favorite! It's entitled "piano lesson," and I saw it right before it was shipped to Vienna.