Joshua Abelow, “Mystic Truths” (2007) (click to enlarge) (all images by the author)

Williamsburg artist Joshua Abelow makes some pretty cool work. When he’s not in the studio he’s working on his website Art Blog Art Blog. Most of us now spend a great deal of our lives online, so it’s no surprise that the artistic process often bleeds over from the studio into the web.

Art Blog Art Blog was started as a visual diary, an online archive compiled of source material that informs Abelow’s process. Along with shots of his own work and images of famous artworks, the artist began posting the works of fellow Brooklyn artists, album covers, photographs and YouTube videos. The result is a stream of consciousness visual poem, a digital visual rebus.

Since the artist began posting just under two years ago he has attracted an avid audience. As his following began to grow, the artist has expanded this creative practice back into the physical realm. Artist Ross Bleckner has temporarily donated his studio space at 508 West 26th street in the heart of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to an Art Blog Art Blog project. Can I Get a Witness? is the fourth in a series of short term group shows to be organized by Art Blog Art Blog through the summer and into the fall.

An installation view of works by Joachim Friedrich

What is most interesting to me is that like his blog, Abelow has forgone the usual fastidiousness of the contemporary curator for a more organic, if not slightly haphazard approach. He has invited a number of artists, galleries and blogs into the space as collaborators. This kind of approach casts the whole endeavor in a positive, community-oriented light that is usually missing in this part of town.

Can I Get a Witness is curated by Tisch Abelow, Jashin Friedrich and Dakotah Savage and features the art of Joshua Abelow, Matt Connolly and Joachim “Yoyo” Friderich.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the curators’ choice is that the three artists, including the project’s founder, are all close family members of the curators. In the words of the press release, “Can you dig that behind every great male artist, there are three female curators?” If this were a high budget commercial venture then perhaps I would care about the nepotism, but in this case the connection between the three artists is significant enough that I think it’s a non-issue. In fact, I wish more exhibitions felt this organic.

Matt Connolly, “Piles” (2011)

The work itself is abstract, painterly and sketchy. There is an obvious tongue-in-cheek dialogue with abstraction. Joachim Friederich’s large scale paper works resemble what might happen were an Abstract Expressionist painter forced to scratch a jail style calendar into the walls of a prison.  His wall of collage and paint stick on vintage newspaper is thoughtful and endearing in turn.

Detail of Matt Connolly’s “Fool Rume” (2009) (click to enlarge)

Matt Conolly’s brightly colored large scale paper drawings used pins, clamps and rope that lent an overwhelming sense of mischief to the room. Joshua Abelow’s installation of 72  brightly color oil paintings, titled Mystic Truths, felt a bit like Mel Bochner, but nonetheless dominated the space, radiating humor from the back wall. In fact, all of the work in the show seemed familiar, not because it was but because it in some way resembled the work of other, older artists. The three artists have clearly been thinking along similar lines, there is a sense of co-conspiracy as all three artists seem to be sparring with and working through their influences. Rather than seeming derivative the result is a wryly humorous and disarmingly honest show of work by mostly young and premonientally New York-based artists (Matt Connolly is based in LA and Joachim Friedrich is about 70 years old).

On the whole, Art Blog Art Blog is a refreshing example of artists using the internet to generate their own opportunities. It brings me happiness to see the exchange of dialogue between artists taken from the private studio space to the public realm of the internet. Similar blogs are AH HOLE AH HOLE, ANABA, KCLOG and HKJBLOG, all sites that Abelow admits to checking on a daily basis.  One can only hope to see more grassroots projects of this scale and maturity.

ART BLOG ART BLOG temporary space is located at 508 West 26th Street, 11th floor, Chelsea, Manhattan. It is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 6pm.

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