Posted inArt

Waste Not, Want Not: Phyllida Barlow’s New Work

As my colleague Thomas Micchelli pointed out in his review of siege, Phyllida Barlow’s exhibition of sculpture at the New Museum earlier this year, she has something in common with Hans Hoffman. Both were teachers who have an impressive roster of distinguished students. In Hoffmann’s case, it included Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Alfred Jensen and Red Grooms. Barlow’s students include Douglas Gordon, Steve Pippin, Tacita Dean and Rachel Whiteread. However, whereas Hoffman’s students eclipsed their teacher, this is hardly the case with Barlow.

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A Monstrous Woman: The Recent Paintings of Carroll Dunham

Carroll Dunham’s recent paintings are a dark comment on the tradition of the idyll, which goes back a long way in painting, and includes such modernist highpoints as Paul Gauguin’s “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892) and Henri Matisse’s “Luxe, Calme et Volupte” (1904) and “Joy of Life” (1906). In addition to celebrating rustic life, the idyllic tradition evokes an Eden-like world unaffected by evil and suffering.

Posted inPoetry

At Play in the Fields of Language: The Poetry of Cathy Park Hong (Part Two)

Engine Empire (2012) is divided into three discrete sections or, perhaps more accurately, three self-sustaining worlds, each with its own invented languages.

In each section Hong utilizes radical forms and devices — a list, an abededarian, a lipogram — to propel her poems out of the lyric torpor so many other poets embrace. The language is volatile, undergoing metamorphosis and extreme pressure. Tremors of discomfort suffuse throughout the music of Hong’s poems.

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After the Fall of Troy: The Paintings of Pieter Schoolwerth

Pieter Schoolwerth’s recent exhibition After Troy (November 9–December 22, 2012) builds upon his previous show, tellingly titled Portraits of Paintings, at Miguel Abreu Gallery. Schoolwerth continues to address the question of what can be done after the death of painting by someone who loves to paint and draw. It is a dilemma that a number of significant painters of his generation — he was born in 1970 and studied at the California Institute of Art — feel they must grapple with, whether they like it or not. The options seem to come down to adopting a Warholian pose or electing to do something that doesn’t necessarily have institutional approval.

Posted inPoetry

At Play in The Fields of Language: The Poetry of Cathy Park Hong (Part One )

The argument between lyric poetry (that is poetry that arises from the poet’s voice (the “I”) or what Robert Grenier characterized as “SPEECH”) and text (the primacy of the written or printed word) is becoming an increasingly obsolete opposition. Globalism and immigration (or migration) – in the form of pidgin, mispronunciation, graffiti, and encoded signs – have overrun the various geographical boundaries as well as upended the rules defining areas of fixed vocabulary, grammar and spelling. The English language – particularly in America — is a field in which decay and replenishment are ongoing, unpredictable ruptures.

Posted inArt

It’s Hard to Lie in a Drawing

For the last twenty years of his life, Tom Fairs (1925–2007) daily drew in small notebooks what he saw. One of these notebooks is the basis of this exhibition. The notebook was done in June and July of 2004. Of the twenty-four drawings that Fairs made in this notebook, only twelve passed muster. These he framed with a pencil line border. The rest he may have thought needed more attention or weren’t good enough — no one knows for sure. Done entirely in pencil, the twelve drawings measure a little more than 4 x 5 ½ inches, with some vertical and others horizontal in orientation. The subjects are things and places he found in London’s Hampstead Heath and the Georgian buildings, streets and gardens of the surrounding area. Nearly eight hundred acres, Hampstead Heath is a public park dating to the middle ages.

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Can I Get a Witness? Working from Observation

Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects is a long and narrow space, somewhere between a bowling alley and a railroad apartment, on the Lower East Side. It is within this rather confined space that Marshall Price, curator at the uptown National Academy of Art, installed eleven paintings by artists committed to working from observation. Chronologically, the artists span five decades (or generations), with Lois Dodd and Lennart Anderson, born respectively in 1927 and 1928, being the oldest. The youngest include Gideon Bok, Anna Hostvedt, Sangram Majumdar and Cindy Tower, with Bok and Tower born in the 1960s, and Hostevedt and Majumdar born in the 1970s. The other artists are Susanna Coffey, Rackstraw Downes, Stanley Lewis, Catherine Murphy, and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, who were born between 1938 and 1949. Together, these artists — a number of whom have been influential teachers — suggest that observational painting is a vigorous, various, and imaginative enterprise that continues to fly under the radar.

Posted inBooks

The Meme After the Fall of The Tower of Babel

Susan Wheeler: God knows, as my mother would have said. I’m beginning to get an inkling, as I’ve been writing a series of poems that use her idiomatic expressions — she grew up in Topeka, and had a strong portion of Pennsylvania Dutch as well, but who knows where she got phrases like “busier than a cranberry bog merchant.” Other things, of course: a soft spot for “colorful speech,” attempts to “read” idioms in order to fit into a group or out of one, an awe of good talkers, especially those who use highly idiomatic speech, Catullus — (laughter) What does Armand Schwerner say? “Extension of the dramatic monologue into plurilogue.”

Posted inBooks

Between The Past You Can’t Live In and The Future You Can’t Imagine

We know that the equation between word and thing can no longer be taken for granted, and that words are made up of both syllables and sounds. Does this mean a poet — one who uses transparent language and writes in an autobiographical mode — is incapable of exploring the conditions of meaning? By transparent, I mean a plain language that can be used to reach the largest audience possible without losing any relevant information. Or must the language the poet uses be opaque and resistant, like reality itself?

Posted inArt

Wayne Thiebaud and the Limits of Gluttony

I was lucky enough to see Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting at the San Jose Museum of Art (February 27–July 4, 2010) and write about it for The Brooklyn Rail (July–August 2010). As with that exhibition, many of the works now on view at the Aquavella Galleries’ posh, mirrored townhouse on Manhattan’s 79th Street (the artist’s first show there), a few blocks north of the Whitney Museum of American Art, came from the Thiebaud Family Collection, the artist’s studio, museums and private collections. Evidently, only a handful of the more than eighty works are for sale. On the day that I went to the gallery a man came in and asked the woman at the front desk for a price list because his wife had told him to “buy her something for Christmas.” This might bother some people, but some of those same people probably don’t see any problem with how much money reality stars spend on their underwear.