PARIS — At ninety, the painter Geneviève Asse is one of France’s national treasures, though France has yet to fully celebrate that fact, as it has with Pierre Soulages, who is four years her elder. A postage stamp with her profile in front of one of her abstract paintings has been issued (Soulages also has had a stamp issued), but I don’t know if there are any plans to build a museum in her honor. If the Soulages Museum in Rodez (the town where he was born), to be completed in December 2013 and open to the public in May 2014, is being built with public money, shouldn’t France’s next project be a museum for Asse?
DUBLIN — Phillip Allen is an English abstract painter in his mid-forties, whose interest in the material possibilities of his medium — ranging from felt tip pens to oil paint and enamel — informs nearly everything else. He would finish a felt tip pen drawing in one sitting, and then, using the drawing as a starting point, labor over an oil painting on board for many months. Since at least 2003, when he had an exhibition of Recent Paintings at PS1, his signature gesture has been to bracket his canvases across the top and bottom edges with large gobs of paint. Formally, the bracketing is a way of framing the image, which Allen does with a line in his felt tip pen drawings. It also makes the painting’s surface protrude into the viewer’s physical space.
DUBLIN — John Cronin, an abstract painter in his late 40s, who has been exhibiting his work regularly in Ireland since the late 1980s, was – for this viewer – a wonderful revelation. Little known in America, it was clear from the moment that I walked into the high-ceilinged gallery space that Cronin was up to something. The most obvious is a preoccupation with the nature of paint’s materiality, and beyond that, with the status of painting at this late point in history. Instead of choosing the path of solutions and a signature style, he has elected the territory of investigation and discovery. Rejecting the commonplace answers of parody and citation, he focuses on the how and what of painting.
DUBLIN — Patrick Jones, an English abstract artist now in his mid-60s, spent a considerable amount of time in America. After studying art in England, most notably at the Birmingham College of Art, he left to get his MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. This was in the 1970s. While in America — he did not return permanently to England until 1994 — Jones became preoccupied with process painting, particularly the way the Color Field painters, such as Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski and Larry Poons, practiced it.
Why Blagdon’s “The Healing Machine” (c. 1950–86), which consists of more than 400 separate pieces — paintings on wood, boxes full of found materials, and intricate wire hangings — survived.
As the child of an interracial marriage (I got to meet my blue-eyed, English grandmother when I was seven, later discovering that she bore an uncanny resemblance to Virginia Woolf), I have to admit to having more than a passing interest in Laurel Nakadate’s most recent, ongoing photo project, Relations, which is included in her current exhibition Strangers and Relations at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects (May 11 to June 29, 2013).
Ever since Mark Greenwold first began exhibiting in 1979, a lot of gibberish has been written about his highly detailed, modestly scaled oil paintings of disquieting domestic situations. One critic, willfully forgetting that there is a difference between fact and fiction, viciously attacked his first solo exhibition — it was comprised of a single large oil painting, “Sewing Room (for Barbara)” (1979) — because the artist depicted a man who resembled himself murdering a woman that looked liked his wife. What would this same critic have made of the six-year-old James’ sudden murderous fantasy about his father in Virginia Woolf’s novel, To The Lighthouse (1927)? I doubt she would have excoriated Woolf. Denouncing Greenwold was easy — he was unknown at the time.
Thomas Nozkowski wasn’t thinking about Philip Guston’s “Untitled” (1980) while he was working on “Untitled (9-21)” (2012), but the number of formal attributes they share — from size to composition and imagery — has proven hard for me to ignore. It was while I was looking at Nozkowski’s “Untitled (9-21)” at his exhibition at Russell Bowman Art Advisory (April 12 – June 15, 2013) in Chicago that a specific Guston work came to mind. Shortly after I got back to New York, I checked to see whether or not my memory had been playing tricks on me. It hadn’t.
I am tired of critics characterizing George Sugarman (1912–1999) — whose work was either overlooked or marginalized during his lifetime — as an idiosyncratic sculptor. By labeling him in this way, they are able to suggest that the neglect was partially his own doing, and to imply that he wasn’t interested in formal issues thought to be integral to sculpture, and which had been explored by his innovative forebears: Constantin Brancusi, Julio Gonzalez, Alberto Giacometti and David Smith. If those are the measures of idiosyncrasy, then he clearly wasn’t that at all. In fact, the opposite seems more true to me — he was at the center of things, but hardly anyone dared to notice.
I still remember the ripples of titillation — occasionally marked by muffled, satisfied guffaws — that spread predictably through the art world when Jeff Koons first exhibited his shiny white and gold porcelain sculpture, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (1988) at Sonnabend in 1989. The sculpture was part of the series, Banality, which became a definitive step toward garnering the kind of attention Koons has always craved.
There is something subversive about Philip Taaffe’s interest in how information can be preserved and transferred from one medium to another. Since the early 1980s, when he first began gaining attention, he has mastered a wide range of processes — including collage, linocut, woodblock, rubber stamp, silkscreen, marbling and decalomania — to capture images, symbols and signs from various sources and convey them to paper and canvas. Although many discrete steps go into making one of his layered paintings, the collection, preservation and transmission of bits of information are central from start to finish. Through his imaginative repurposing of minor art forms — collage, printmaking, and marbling — Taaffe has dissolved the barriers separating artisanship from painting, effectively redefining the latter.
Sometimes, it is hard to remember that Social Media came along years after the rise of the personal computer and the Internet, which Al Gore called the “Information Superhighway.” But like the highway in Jean-Luc Godard’s apocalyptic comedy, Weekend (1967), the Internet is littered with refuse and ugliness of all kinds: overturned vehicles and violence.