Thursday, June 28, 2012
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Ellen Gallagher, Greasy, 2010
via the Gagosian Gallery
To properly consider Ellen Gallagher’s “Greasy” (2010), a mixed-media work in a solo show of the same name on view at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, a visitor is required to travel to the back wall of the gallery space. In order to do so, one must first navigate around five long-limbed tables that display collages encased in translucent vitrines. These works from the eight-part “Morphia” series depict forms of magnified cartoon proportions that appear otherwordly; one flaunts newspaper horns from one angle, and quivering eyelashes from the other, its tail fanning out into slivers of print. In each, the surfaces of egg-washed paper appear decidedly clinical in the empty space of the white cube gallery, and it is with silence and delicacy that the viewer comes to “Greasy” on the right of the first gallery’s far wall. The effect of travelling to it is disorientating. Encountering the 79.5 x 74 inch canvas invites extended contemplation, proving to be an additional journey beyond the physical one already exercised. A work of ranging material -- ink, oil, graphite and printed-paper -- “Greasy” shifts between abstraction and figuration, with rhythmic lines appearing at times to take the form of distorted physiognomy. The metaphor of the journey continues to be particularly apt for this work, as it maintains a sense of familiarity only momentarily. The packed surface never allows the eye to settle, and figuration becomes noticeable only after close inspection. Gallagher’s “Greasy,” then, represents an animated journey between material and meaning, as it is the case that the viewer gains knowledge of the work’s possible polemics only after a rigorous interrogation of formal elements.
Though Gallagher’s canvas is rich and sumptuous in the range of media used, the artist uses empty space to aggregate her rhythms. The surface of the painting “appears to have undergone various degrees of obliteration, ” with white ink covering the entire expanse of the canvas. Magazine clippings, most noticeably the letters “e” and “o,” are visible above the ink, though the graphic details of bottles, jars, and tubes are whitened out. They appear in patches, disjointed between the inked spaces. The white expanse itself is bridged by deep cracks, chipped as if under the threat of becoming shattered. The cut-paper appears almost carved.
It is from these ink-soaked incisions that a looming shape emerges from the bottom left of the canvas. The paper curves in a way suggestive of the female form, although the roaming filigree of intricate drawing and collage - constantly shifting the viewer’s attention around, over, and across the work – make it seem impossible to decisively decide the gender of the depicted form. Lines that appear as graphed squares are interspersed, further complicating one’s view of the outlined body. Imagery from clippings similarly competes for attention by threatening to be shown through the white ink. While it is these same clippings that provide shape for a shoulder and arm, the viewer is generally forced to chart topography, mapping out the elevations that seem to appear out of oil and cut-paper. Much like how a mountain’s contour lines are represented on a map, the figure disturbs the otherwise rhythmic patterns of line.
Graphic images, both hidden and plainly visible, do not provide many clues to a central meaning. The presumed red spear held by the figure, as well as shapes in the form of clocks and bottles are lost in a collage. Instead, one is left to contemplate the use of material as it relates to the corporeal outline. As tattoo is branded on flesh, so is ink absorbed on paper. Seeing the figure as inked, or marked, provides a new context for he ghostly structure. Abstractions, in this case, dwell halfway between body and art.
Using abstract and minimal techniques, Gallagher’s “Greasy” employs both abstraction and minimalism. With varied techniques, formal elements are used to create figuration, despite the ease at which the process seeks to disguise it. Perhaps the work's title speaks to this visual slippage.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
These photographs by Tina Barney are from a series called Players now on view through December 18 at Janet Borden Gallery in New York. What I love most is their visual tension: there is a certain confrontation that immediately takes place between viewer and subject. They are editorialized subjects of wealth and privilege, presented for my condemnation.
via Art Observed
Family Commission with Snake, 2007
The Hands, 2002
The Young Lady, 2002.
via Art Observed
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Justin Allen creates oil on panel paintings that are rendered in many layers of oil and glaze. Though small in size, some take up to two years to complete. Reminiscent of a verisimilitude of light and color as seen in the works of Dutch interior painters like Jan Vermeer, Petrus Christus and Has Memling, Allen's pieces are striking. They seem decidedly youthful, simple and pure in form, objects un-seduced by their own beauty. Allen believes that he "paints the contemporary with a deep appreciation for an older vernacular."
via the artists's website
Round Trashcan, 2005-2007
7" x 9," oil on panel
18" x 24," Oil on linen mounted to panel
7 3/4 " x 8.5, oil on panel
Inflatable Pool, 2005-2007
8" x 16," oil on panel
via the artists's website