There’s a well-worn path between my studio and the kitchen in my live/work apartment. When I’m not in the studio making paintings, I’m in the kitchen cooking. In both places, I engage my interest in material transformation, and satisfy my impulse to make things by hand. Sometimes I unintentionally set up still-lives as I cook that find their way into my paintings. Other times, the visceral qualities of the cooking process end up being translated into painting somehow. More often than not, a problem I have been trying to solve with a painting gets resolved as I’m chopping or stirring. As I move back and forth between these two physically proximate spaces, the psychological pathway between them fosters my best thinking, which, for me, happens when I’m using my hands.
The first image here is a small acrylic painting on paper from 2011 called Claimy. Below it is a picture of Julia Child eating an oyster, cut out of a 1979 cookbook that has been on the wall in my studio for about seven years. I have a collection of vintage cookbooks I look at often, but this image has particular resonance for me. One of the things I love about it is that even though the scene is quite self-consciously staged for a photo shoot, Julia is clearly experiencing joy and sensual pleasure- a real immersion in the moment. I like how the 1970’s color palate and staging provoke my own questions of taste, while the lusciousness and abundance of the oysters in their propped-up bowl stirs appetite and desire. I always paint from reference in some form, but it wasn’t until long after this painting was finished and hanging on the studio wall that I could see its clear relationship to the picture of Julia and her oyster tablescape. –Susan Bricker, 2013
My color field text paintings began incorporating imagery over a year ago. This reintroduced some of the problems of traditional painting into my work, such as figure ground relationships. I have become preoccupied with creating fine gradations of color in what would be the “negative space” of the painting. However, I find it ironic that such a distinction can be made, for, while an image/composition is created, it is also simultaneously an “all over” painting, devoid of compositional hierarchies, consisting of evenly spaced word blocks. Regardless, it is fascinating to me that it is possible to create spatial tension through color relationships alone.
Making the large text/image paintings can leave me physically and mentally exhausted, so I sometimes like to blow off steam and make smaller, more experimental pieces on the side. On one recent occasion, I decided to “loosen up” a bit and play with gradations of color without the text, devising the tapering diagonal stripes and a simple system of where each color would go. I’m very interested in Op Art, so it was fun to create my own take on it off the cuff. The color relationships in this painting ended up being a big part of California Dreamin, so in this way it was also a color study, albeit an unconscious one. –Erik den Breejen, 2013
Benjamin King’s recent paintings and sculpture dig into metaphysical terrain, but are also firmly rooted in the materials and physical process of painting, not to mention the planet outside his studio. These areas of focus are evident in a large-scaled black painting that hearkens back to Rothko’s late Chapel works. Acned with stone fragments, glitter and lumps of medium and paint, this painting invokes Rothko’s gravitas, but without the associated angst. A down to earth kind of spirituality, if you will. (It merits mentioning that King is an avid rock climber). Blobby forms appear on either side of the canvas, resembling lava lamp ooze floating to the surface. They suggest an evolutionary phase in the history of a prehistoric place, but also seem apparitional and without absolute reference–both solid and transparent, apropos of the kind of metaphysics at work in his studio.
The presence of natural objects in the above work highlights a relationship between King’s studio practice and his movements in the world, his practice of collecting objects outside of the studio, sometimes rearranging them where found, and sometimes hauling them back to the studio for some doctoring up. In this case, the medicine is paint or, stretching the metaphor over into psychology, group therapy for objects. Dozens of small sculptures composed of stacked and painted rock, wood chunks, and branches, methodically arranged on various surfaces (including a long row of radiators under some windows), people King’s space. Some of the groups sit on palettes that can be wheeled around the room. Others rest within improvised sand boxes atop weathered, metal tables. (King has also been collecting this particular kind of table which I’ve seen used as bases for industrial sinks).
I can’t help but anthropomorphize King’s stacked stones and chunks of wood and imagine them in conversation with one another as well as the paintings that border them. They loosely remind me of recent work by Jennifer Reeves who constructs small, abstract sculptures out of mixed media and photographs them in real landscape settings. Both Reeves’ and King’s share a common genealogy with roots in abstraction. In contrast to Reeve’s narrative photographs, however, King’s tableaux don’t direct the narrative nor hint at a relationship to specific events; but instead work like three dimensional sketches that both comment on King’s studio practice and reveal the artist as a flaneur and collector. They also beg many questions (beyond the scope of this article) about what happens to an object once its relationship to a place and history gets severed. Maybe we just call that art.
The largest sculpture in the room (Time Tunnel) is constructed of two bulky planks of ancient wood, the first of which King dug out of the street on Second Avenue one night after the construction crew left the scene; and the other, part of a pier King found washed ashore in Red Hook. King emailed recently about their history in in a way that reflects on his general approach to the objects he collects:
The original roads in Brooklyn have these huge wood beams that run across the road like the wood in train tracks. The city was probably trying to access something beneath this strata and had to cut out this wood that has been buried for more than half a century. The wood was covered in mud and mold. I let it dry for weeks then cleaned it. I did not change the form of it at all though. The top piece is drift wood from red hook probably once part of a pier. The pieces were found many months apart from each other. The red hook piece I found last fall and the other the spring of that same year. When I got them in the same room it was pretty clear right away that they went together.
This piece effectively functions as a totem to myriad histories and purposes, but without the incumbent symbolism associated with totems. It also has a machine-like presence that reminds me of a primitive clock or antenna. There is a complex collaboration at work here as well between nature, historical context, and the artist. All of these forces have left a variety of natural and human-made hieroglyphics, mixing languages of chance with utility, and colluding finally with the speculative physics King applies to reconstruct and reorient time.
All of the works I saw this day at King’s studio shared a primordial physics that oscillates between moments of light and heavy gravity. The brownish painting below, for example, with its variegated thicket of marks, and trunk-like form dominating the background, appears at first intractably dense. But each mark also seems to exert its own force and place against the others like a cluster of negatively charge particles. The scene feels like a compression of energy that is ready to burst.
A larger canvas against another wall extends the metaphor of energy in a more subdued direction. In this work, a background of raw canvas forms an arc over several foregrounded mound shapes. The paint here is thinly applied with an economy that King likens to “sword strokes”. The painting reminds me immediately of Milton Avery’s reductive approach to the landscape, only here the allusions to landscape maintain a coy ambiguity. The mounds, painted in different values of gray, huddle along the bottom edge of the canvas, inviting a number of readings, but also satisfying as abstractions without a necessary context. They seem at once monumental and minute, potentially referencing mountains from a distance or pebbles up close. After awhile I start to see them as figures, and then sheets shrouding something indefinite but substantial. Perhaps that last reading is a decent way of characterizing the kind of abstraction King is up to in much of his work. Invisible but there.
Currently, my art practice seems to be divided into two expressions of form that strive to reach the same goal, but do so using different means. I would say that untitled (triclops) is the result of my primary sculptural impulse; a form which parasitically hugs the ground similar to the way we often look out into the world for our own stability. We use whatever we have experienced, acquired, and developed faith in, to maintain our upright existence. However, somewhere within me is also a singular strength. Though it appears less frequently in my work, making it my secondary sculptural form, it seems to represent an aspect of self that is autonomous. Regardless of how visually precarious its effort might appear, untitled (pole) represents this notion as it remains standing using one solid base to support its various parts that rest one on top of each other. -Kirk Stoller, 2013
I tend to be very organized and compartmentalized in both daily life and my artistic pursuits. That, mixed with an overwhelming resistance to being pigeon-holed for one particular type of work, leads me to work serially in my studio practice. I have been working on my most recent series of sticker paintings for approximately four years. In this series, I appropriate provenance stickers, which I collect from my day job at a frame shop in Manhattan, with my own name, title, media, date, and dimensions. The appropriated titles correspond directly with the gallery sticker and are typically snippits of conversations overheard at my shop, galleries or fairs, or are statements that I would like to pass along to the respective galleries myself. To date, there are about 45 works in this series and many more in the sketchbook to be completed over the coming months and years.
However, in the meantime, I feel that I am also ready to start working on a new body of work so as to keep things fresh and new and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I have begun working on a new project that will tentatively be comprised of endurance video, paintings, installation, costume design, model building, and, in my dream of all dreams, performance–but only if I had unlimited funds and perhaps a cold environment. The new series deals with personal narrative, family history, and ice skating. This image is a still, shot from the computer screen, of a test video that may become an endurance based, looped film. The object is a crystal ball with an ice skater laser etched inside in the position of a Biellman spin. When I spin the ball, the skater appears to be spinning. However, the ball is not attached to the base and so eventually the skater spins off axis and ends up seeming to somersault with her leg pulled high above her head. -Alex Gingrow, 2013
There were a very few specific works by Monet I saw in Paris last summer while at the Musée d’Orsay. Namely, his paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. Those pieces had a huge impact on me from the start. As I approached my painting last year, I had those pieces in mind. It’s hard to get a sense of how powerful those works are from one jpeg, but standing in front of them, they looks as if they were painted yesterday. I wanted to steal as much as I could from that experience. My work I’ve included here attempts to capture something of that same spirit. –William Crump, 2013
As part of my practice I began creating these studies on paper as intermediary works between pencil drawings and the paintings. All of my work is painted completely free hand, but extremely tight. These studies give me an opportunity and a freedom to work out ideas quickly and loosely. They have begun to stand alone and become works on their own, but I love the fact they are simply byproducts created out of pure necessity.This departure from the delicate object a painting becomes is liberating for me in the studio. –Matt Mignanelli, 2013
Last year a friend challenged me to recreate images from my paintings using a medium I had never used before. The night before she came, I picked up a few rolls of duct tape that were lying around my studio and was immediately turned on by the countless possibilities it offered as an artistic medium. Using subtle differences in tone and transparency I molded the tape into figures and forms, creating a highly tactile surface that engaged the line between drawing and sculpture. Soon I was transforming these images into large-scale duct tape installations rendered directly on gallery walls. The limitations dictated by the size, color and opacity of the tape challenged me to capitalize on the possibilities that each stroke presented. The large scale of the pieces and the short time frame I had for these site-specific installations were new to me and pushed me to work in a clear and concise manner. My subject matter, Airport Security or the transient space of the subway, resonate with the duct tape’s allusion to things held together temporarily in emergency situations.
Strangely, not only did the duct tape whet my appetite for oil paint, it also shifted something fundamental in the way I relate to painting. Back in the studio I began to pay closer attention to the characteristics of each color as I squeeze it out of the tube. Rather than coerce the paint, I use its inherent limitations to propel me forward. I tackle larger surfaces and complete paintings in shorter time frames. When images from my duct tape installations creep into my paintings I ask: what can paint tell me about these images that the duct tape has not revealed? In turn, images that develop in paintings feed into the next round of duct tape installations. At this point, as I move continuously between duct tape and oil, it is hard to say which is the body and which is the buddy. –Tirtzah Bassel, 2013
Tirtzah’s recent duct tape installation is on display at ROOMS through February 14th 2013.
The first work is a large painting from 2012: Tree. The second piece is from a recent project I completed at Aurobora in San Francisco. It is a combination of collage and Xerox transfer on paper. I am working on a series of large tree paintings in which the Redwood fills the entire surface, becoming an abstraction. Alternatively, the Xerox transfer is a new medium for me that I see as an extension of how I think about the relationship between image, abstraction, process, and material in painting. I hope to make a lot more of these. I think of them as a form of drawing as I investigate this new series of work. -Claire Sherman, 2013
I have been thinking lately about image and self-image and also perception and misperception. These thoughts have led to the distorted silhouettes I have been depicting in recent paintings: bodies without heads, with deformed limbs and ambiguous genitalia, either on their own or in pairs. These are not meant to horrify; on the contrary they are alluring in their strange eroticism. The first in this series was In Road, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 80″, which was taken from a photo I took at the end of a beautiful beach day. Since then I have been working from photos I have either taken or found, using them essentially as starting points until there is often little left of them in the resulting paintings. –Amanda Church, 2012