Long-haul New Yorker’s (and East Villagers like me, especially) constantly bemoan the fact that Manhattan is becoming increasingly gentrified. The innumerable local-business closures caused by the pandemic have only exacerbated the loss of historical identity in an area that was once arguably the coolest neighborhood in NYC. When the legendary Rock & Roll boutique Trash & Vaudeville was forced to relocate from St. Mark’s Place after four decades in the same location, it really felt like nothing is sacred. It is a small conciliation then that a new contemporary art gallery, Public Access, opened this past September in the downstairs storefront formerly occupied by Trash. I recently had the chance to check out the gallery’s current exhibit, a solo show of paintings by artist Marika Thunder entitled Dress Up My Lindsay. The series has an interesting autobiographical backstory for the painter.
Paul Feeley (1910 – 1966) has often been associated with Color Field painters, but his most recognized works, largely made between 1962 and 1965, stand apart from those of his peers for their economy of color and spare compositions. Formal Haut (1965), produced the year before Feeley’s death, features his signature forms, namely a single jack (inspired by the game of jacks) and repeated baluster shapes. Their convex and concave contours interlock in a symmetrical arrangement, centered within the square frame. The simple geometric design is highlighted by an equally uncomplicated palette, limited to just two contrasting colors on unprimed canvas.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting, On Through August 2nd, 2020 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
In 1960, Toshinobu Onosato reevaluated his approach to the circle, a form that for much of the previous decade he had presented as monochromatic surfaces whose simplicity was emphasized by surrounding webs of intersecting lines.
Painting A, Detail
According to the artist, dividing the circle through the “the piling up of color planes” allows for better understanding of the shape’s true dimensions. Born from a desire to capture brightness and harmony, works such as Painting A (1961 – 62) vibrate with energy that relates to — but remains separate from — the illusory effects sought by Op artists.
Photographed as part of the exhibit The Fullness of Color: 1960’s Paintings at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan
Paul Cadmus (December 17, 1904 – December 12, 1999) was an American artist, best known for his egg tempera paintings of gritty social interactions in urban settings. His paintings combine elements of eroticism and social critique in a style often called magic realism. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently reintroduced a series of his thematic paintings, The Seven Deadly Sins (1945 – 49), for exhibit in the museum’s Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries, and they are amazingly graphic works of surrealist horror art that are really something to see.
Between 1945 and 1949, Paul Cadmus turned his dexterous hand and fertile imagination to rendering the Seven Deadly Sins, a subject with biblical antecedents that artists (including Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder) have explored since the Middle Ages.
Cadmus’s interpretation extends his predilection for social satire to surreal extremes of excess, vulgarity and gore. Of the series, Cadmus explained, “I don’t appear as myself, but I am all of the Deadly Sins in a way, as you all are, too.
Whether you’re seeing his colorful works out on the street, or in the gallery, Kenny Scharf has one of the most instantly recognizable styles in the contemporary art world. Deitch Projects downtown is currently hosting Inner and Outer Space, an ambitious exhibit of Sharf’s newest works which features several distinct collections that provide evidence of Scharf’s enthusiasm for expanding his oeuvre, while staying true to the playful characteristics of his work that his fans love the most.
You can get a hint of what you’re in for before you even stop inside the gallery
The faces are melting in Kenny Scharf’s new paintings. “Things are disintegrating,” says the artist. “I am reacting to our increasingly out-of-control situation.” Scharf’s work continues to be infused by his inexhaustible optimism and his sense of fun, but there has always been an engagement with profound issues beneath the façade. Ecology, the environment, and capitalist excess have long been central themes.
Kenny Scharf’s work has always combined and contrasted the pop culture he absorbed growing up in Los Angeles with the important innovations in modern and contemporary art. His earlier work fused Dali and Disney. More recently, he has been in dialogue with Pollock and Abstract Expressionism. In the new work, he merges his distinct style with color field and stain painting. “I like to connect with every movement in 20th-century art,” Scharf explains. “I make new hybrids, taking it all in and putting it in a blender.”
Scharf is very enthusiastic about his new “sloppy style” that characterizes the major paintings in the exhibition. Rows of faces disintegrate into colorful drips reminiscent of both New York School painting and the serial imagery of minimal art. In these new works, Scharf is striving to create clear and simple forms that resonate with meaning. He feels liberated and excited, adding that “it is so much fun.”
Like his artistic colleagues from his early years in New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, Scharf studied cartoons as a way to intensify figurative expression. He makes use of cartoon faces to express emotion with abstract power.
In the past, Kenny found many of the items integrated into his art in the garbage,and even today he still stops his car when he finds plastic toys and TV sets thrown away on the street. These discarded plastic objects have inspired the two other bodies of work featured in the show, one being TV Bax.
The TV Bax are painted on the plastic backs of discarded television sets. Like the toys, the TV backs have a disconcerting anthropomorphic quality. Scharf wonders if their anonymous designers created these plastic covers, which are different for every model, to resemble a face.
TV Bax, Detail
Scharf finds these thrown-away toys and TV backs to be poignant objects, resonant with emotion. “Each of these objects carries a story,” Scharf explains. He thinks about how people might have struggled and sacrificed to buy these toys and TVs, and about the intense relationship that children and families have with them. Scharf resurrects the lives of these inanimate objects in his work. He also notes that garbage keeps changing with technology. The backs of TV sets used to have large protruding “noses.” Now they are flatter and more similar to a canvas.
Another new collection, his Assemblage Vivant Tableaux Plastiques, inspired by the Nouveau Realistes, are constructed from his stock of recycled plastic toys. These wall sculptures, which mix assorted toy parts with Scharf’s whimsical animated faces, are my favorite items in the exhibit.
Assemblage Vivant Tableaux Plastiques, Detail
Since his childhood, Scharf has been fascinated by outer space. Space travel and the portrayal of infinite space have long been central themes. In his life and in his work, he tries to eliminate boundaries and borders. As he pursues his dialogue with the great painters of the New York School, he is increasingly preoccupied with the inner space of painting. His exploration of inner space creates a dynamic tension with his passion for outer space. With his characteristic exuberance and his moral voice, Scharf reformulates his unique combination of Pollock and Pop to create a vibrant new body of work.
Kenny Scharf’s Inner and Outer Space will be on Exhibit Through December 22nd, 2017 at Deitch Projects, Located at 18 Wooster Street (Just North of Canal) in NYC.
Kenny Scharf and Friend at the Exhibit’s Opening Reception.
The Lever House Art Collection recently hosted Concrete Jungle Jungle Love, a site-specific installation by New York based artist Katherine Bernhardt. I happened to pop in to the exhibit which filled the Lever House Park Avenue lobby, while passing time before dining a nearby restaurant, as the installation’s vibrantly-colored elements drew me in from the street like steel to a magnet.
The explosively colorful exhibition playfully fused imagery and objects of modern culture (Windex, Toothpaste, Tropical Fruits) with that of the tropics. The commission was one of Bernhardt’s first departures from canvas, pulling motifs out of her paintings and giving audiences a unique three-dimensional experience of her work.
A combination of acrylic and spray paint canvases, dyed interactive soft sculptures (which the artist refers to as “Gummy Worms”) and a concrete block plant installation, the show’s multi-medium elements serve as a whimsical juxtaposition to the modernist architecture of the space.
Bernhardt explains,”When constructing the show, I envisioned a giant fish bowl tank, with giant Jurassic objects, paintings, and soft sculptures. In this show, gigantism rules. You’ll find giant gummy worm sculptures and giant paintings. The gummies could also be seen as giant paint strokes that have fallen out of the paintings. You can play on them or rest on them as well as admire the beauty of gummy worms.
The painted walls, colored film windows, and painted concrete blocks, all encapsulate this colorful crazy concrete jungle. Similar to the botanical garden, these works are contained in their own glass bio-dome: The Lever House. Welcome to the Jurassic terrarium.”
The multi-layered show invited viewers to experience Bernhardt’s installation as a terrarium – from the exterior, or immerse oneself in her prodigious concrete jungle – from the interior. The artist’s works draw inspiration from symbols of urban living and her travels in Oaxaca, Mexico and Puerto Rico. She uses traveling as an inspiration for all of her work. She recently got her traveling visa from www.evisa-turkey.biz.tr for her new trips.
We were very sad to learn of the passing of groundbreaking painter and Op Art pioneer, Julian Stanczak on March 25th of this year. He had good, long life! As a last hurrah, Mitchell-Innes & Nash is currently hosting The Life of the Surface, Paintings, 1970 – 1975, an exhibition of Stanczak’s paintings exclusively from the years 1970 to 1975. This long-planned exhibition is Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s second solo exhibition with the artist, and the first since his recent passing.
Red + Red
Red + Red, Detail
Stanczak’s reverence for color comes from a desire to translate the drama and power of nature into a universal impression. His canvases are created through a complex process of tape masks upon which colors are systematically added and unveiled in layers. Despite the intricate and painstaking process, Stanczak does not use any preparatory drawings for his paintings, relying solely on his own vision of a finished work.
Detail from Above Painting
The artist’s work transcends traditional nods to analytical painting methods often associated with this period by drawing upon personal experiences, particularly the diverse places he has lived. Utilizing tromp l’oeil characteristics, Stanczak’s paintings engender the vibration of a distinct visual experience from within the surface of the canvas.
In works like Filtration- Opposing to Red (1974-77) the color radiates from the center, vibrating across the surface of the canvas. The light oscillates and encompasses the viewer, creating an engaging and thoughtful experience with color. While the intensity is similar, the cool tones of Soft Light (1972-73) resonate at a gradual pace and generate a calmer energy. The artist described his titles as “provocative of the experience that parallels [his] initial response,” rather than direct descriptions.
Julian Stanczak’s body of work is awe-inspiring and unique. Whether you’re already a fan, or if you’ve never seen his work in person, now is the time to check him out.
Julian Stanczak’s The Life of The Surface, Paintings 1970 – 1975 will be on Exhibit Through June 24th, 2017 at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Located at 534 West 26th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.