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Posted inArt

America’s Grand Gestures Reign Supreme Again in Basel

BASEL, Switzerland — Fifty-five years ago, the exhibition The New American Painting arrived at the Kunsthalle Basel. It was the first stop on a yearlong tour that touted the work of seventeen Abstract Expressionists before eight European countries — the first comprehensive exhibition to be sent to Europe showing the advanced tendencies in American painting. All but five of the original artists from the show had work on view at last weekend’s Art Basel, where postwar American painting and sculpture dominated the halls.

Posted inArt

“In Painting We Discover Demons; If We Don’t Exorcise Them They Devour Your Ass!”

SAVANNAH, Georgia — Traditionally, art history is contained on objects — the artifacts that artists leave behind and populate our museums and galleries, offering aesthetic arguments, disagreements, and manifestos. But the messier, less packaged-up side of art history is hidden in the people who lived it. That much was certainly clear from a lecture at Savannah College of Art and Design’s 2013 deFINE Art conference.

Posted inPoetry

The Obscenities Are in Quotes

Whatever became of the New York School? There was a first generation, the last avant-garde according to some (but not so last that there couldn’t be a second generation and a third, and …) as whatever it was that defined the school as a school, beyond the simple fact of friendship, dissolved into the common air of the culture — which is just where it belongs. Wit, urbanity, formal exuberance, a willingness to (as Frank O’Hara famously put it) “just go on your nerve,” a dandyish pose of being more casual and less serious than you really are as an antidote to the unearned solemnity that so often seems endemic to poetry, an affinity for quotidian surrealism and lumpen absurdity and “life-giving vulgarity” (O’Hara again, of course) — these could never be the doctrine of any one school or enclosed by any particular municipality. They are simply things that keep the art of poetry refreshed, allowing it to breathe again after its periodic ascents to those lofty reaches where language inevitably becomes abstract, impersonal, and (too often) lugubrious.

Posted inArt

The Plastic Bag as Artistic Muse

In Patrick Griffin’s recent exhibition at The Journal Gallery in Williamsburg, Common Courtesy, he focused on an unusual subject matter: the plastic bag. If you live in a major city then you are more than familiar with these little guys; they accumulate under your sink, get stuck in that storm drain you always walk by on your way to work and blow urban tumbleweeds across the street at all hours of the day and night. Though the artist’s focus is playful and somewhat off kilter, his approach to this body of work seems almost scientific. Griffin collected, catalogued and scanned an army of plastic bags into the computer. Using this databank as his starting point, the artist made paintings directly from the two dimensional planes of these photographs.

Posted inArt

A Letter to Merce Cunningham

Dear Merce Cunningham,
As your company comes to a close this winter, I have been on the look out for all things Merce. Wanting to understand you better and hoping that I could still understand you even after you have passed, I visited Charles Atlas’s video tribute to you now at the New Museum not just once, but twice.

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