Interview on Curator with Graeme Mitchell

Graeme Mitchell interview by Anne Marie Taylor

Interview by Anne Marie Taylor

I met Graeme Mitchell at the opening of his first exhibition at Wilding Cran, in 2014. After speaking about his work, LA, and life in general, it was obvious he had a critical mind and articulate manner, in some part from schooling in literature at Oregon State University and living in New York for several years.  Well known as an editorial photographer of portraits for The New Yorker, The New York Times and WSJ Magazine, Mitchell has only recently--considering the span of his career--included fine arts in his practice.  In anticipation of his next solo exhibition at Wilding Cran (opening Saturday, April 8 in Los Angeles), I met with him at his studio on Slauson and Normandie, to catch up and see where this new body of work has taken him. 

The studio, fairly large, is set up with new paintings, along with older paintings I’d seen before, small "installational" sculptures of chicken wire and photographs, tables of paint, and stacks and stacks of printed images.  We sit in tall chairs by the recorder and delve right into the bigger questions. 

Anne Marie Taylor:  Would you describe your move from editorial and commercial photography toward fine art as a switch?  Transition?  Deviation?  How do you find that they inform each other?  Or are you working with a different set of concerns for each?

Graeme Mitchell:  I think about it as more of an evolution, because to me an evolution is something that happens both naturally and out of necessity, and that's how I felt when I added painting to my photo practice.  I think it’s important to explain my history in photography.  It's all I've ever done, the only job I've ever had, and it was largely based on commercialism.  Once I began to work within an art practice, I started to use drawing and video alongside photography.  Still, I kept finding that photography was putting me in these cul de sacs.  I thought maybe it was because I’d done it since I was so young and I had all this information, all these things I had learned--I couldn't take a photograph without allusions and automatisms.  Or maybe the difficulty was that it was always based upon a commercial career.  But then I started to play with paint and I started to look at photography through painting, and something clicked.  It was a way of stripping away everything I knew about making pictures, and starting with something very, very basic.

This conversation about using painting now is difficult for me though, because generally I feel like I’m offered these narrow definitions of things; like you were this, now you're that.  And it makes it feel like there's a sense of leaving something... I don't really feel that.  You said this really interesting thing about how nobody talks about what happens when you get to a place, or when you realize you never actually do get to that place.  It makes sense, but sometimes it can be silly.  And it’s come up a lot lately, but it often is more about how to define or understand something than what is actually happening. 

I’ve come to understand one of the primary concerns of my work is pictures, and I wanted to try something, try to go deeper with this new medium, go further along this path that I've been walking.  And there’s nothing strange in that to me. 

AMT:  I feel that you're also an editor in almost every aspect; you even edit your speech.  You make so many versions of these paintings, apart from studies, that there's room for mistakes and for failure.  And that's basically how you learn, right?

GM:  It's also often the most interesting part of the work.  That's one of the reasons I really grasped onto painting--there were so many more opportunities for failure within it. When you're trying to understand pictures, almost on a philosophical level, like what they mean to you, every opportunity for failure is an opportunity for discovery.  

This is also what makes painting so frustrating, because there are no road marks at any point in this process.  With each mark you have no indicators of why something works or doesn't work, except your gut.  Seeing what is good, or what is there, is the most difficult part.  With painting, you're contending with that aspect of virtuosity--either trying to attain it, or to try to create friction against the idea of it.  Virtuosity isn’t really something you think about in photography.

But yes, that’s how I learn, through practice, trying and seeing.  The best advice I got when I first really started to get knocked around by painting was from a good friend, who said painting is pretty much about getting to work on it.

AMT:  Do you place yourself in the work, or is it more like you're a vessel of some kind, or a translator for the image which is a separate thing from you?  Your hand is in it, obviously, because you're making it, but are you personally involved in it, other than on a conceptual level?

GM:  There are two sides to that for me.  I often look more to literature, because when I hear writers talk about the process, it makes a lot of sense to me.  My bodies of work begin with a premise of cataloging what’s around me, a kind of journaling.  In that sense, it’s personal.  It's things around me that I start recording, and making piles and making pictures, and then only after I’m maybe halfway into a body of work am I able to step back and it begins to outline its edges.  It’s a very natural process.  I like for it to be wide open, something that can take on a life of its own.

In the actual making of the painting, I don't want any sense of me in it.  Even my hand, as you put it, is something I’m trying to distance myself from.  I like it to be ambiguous.  My presence isn’t useful in what I want the picture to achieve either in my making it or in my audience’s viewing it.  This goal of being apart from the work is fundamentally contradictory to a hand-painted picture, but that dualism is maybe the meaningful part to me.  With it, a sense of longing or searching can be manifested in the picture--it is art as a means to witnessing faith.  There’s just no ego in it.

Cage and Richter were extremely influential in that regard.  I didn't come from art, so I assumed for a long time that art had to have a level of expressionism in it, but they taught me that expression could be an operation of chance.  That chance is often how my hand happens to move when I stop thinking about it.

AMT:  It's also that sort of Cageian idea of putting a frame around something, like the ordinary or slightly askew situation. Because of its semi regal history, as soon as you make a painting of something, it becomes important.  Doing that with these images you find on the Internet is a strange juxtaposition.  It adds something to it, I think.

GM:  Someone could also see that as a gimmick, but I say that maybe because I don't see paintings as regal.  Or maybe I do, but not in the sense that it’s innate in their history.  Any art can be regal, and I think the tremendous thing about art is it can be so many things at once.  Some of these works have this bizarre sort of amateurism to them, but at the same time are not functioning at all as an amateur easel painting might.   I think art that I enjoy most when I'm seeing it--you just can't place it fast.  It creates this complication of being two things at once, or three things at once.  And it won’t tell you what it is, but it’s quiet and allows you to discover for yourself. 

continue reading: http://curator.site/writing/2017/4/18/graeme-mitchell

Artillery Magazine Pick Of The Week

Sharon Engelstein // Ever To Find. Pick Of The Week by Ezrha Jean Black

Sharon Engelstein – Ever to Find
It is for some of us (the more fortunate among us) the first fear or horror we know – our first encounter with something at first glimpse familiar that upon extended gaze or lingering examination reveals itself as utterly transmogrified, and suddenly, quite unexpectedly, entirely alien. What follows, though, is usually more thoughtful and inquiring, even analytic. (Horror can be fascinating.) We’re picking ourselves apart even as we’re picking apart the object of horror or fascination (to see if we want more – we usually do). Alternatively, the object is transformed into its own raison d’être – an idée fixe that seems the end-product of a perfectly logical evolution. Sharon Engelstein is not the first artist to explore this psychological dimension in ceramic sculpture, but she is entirely original and expansive in a direction that is rarely seen in the contemporary landscape. Unlike say, Ken Price, her glazes are relatively neutral; but Engelstein introduces other materials (e.g., wax, copper, gold leaf and other metallic elements), extrusions and the occasional shock of color into the composition. This has a counterpart in her drawings, too – similarly both abstract and biomorphic, but frequently dissolved into a kind of rationalized mapping or modeling (e.g., a Sushi Eye whorling into a black hole of netting; mitotically Split Eggs; morphing cranial forms further wreathed in a swirl of polygons) – where an azure-auraed sapphire star explodes in a quasi-botanical mapping. The permeable divide between skin or envelope and structures, both invasive and extrusive, becomes the locus for analytic dissection, invention and wholesale transformation. (Why wouldn’t a bowl unravel in shards and take wing?) Ambiguity rarely presents in such crystalline fashion. Free Wall presents folly as dissertation – on the notions of barrier, containment, sequestration (also penetration, infiltration, corruption, exposure). There’s paradox for you: each of these compact sculptures contain entire worlds yet split them right open again – a moment of potential horror rendered ecstatic. 

http://artillerymag.com/pick-of-the-week/

Show runs thru March 19, 2017

Contemporary Art Review LA reviews Sharon Engelstein // Ever To Find

Sharon Engelstein
at Wilding Cran Gallery

Sharon Engelstein, Ever to Find (Installation View). Image courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.

Sharon Engelstein, Ever to Find (Installation View). Image courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery.

February 15, 2017
Text by Jessica Simmons

If the vessel is traditionally ceramic’s primary form, Sharon Engelstein’s solo exhibition at Wilding Cran dislocates the material from its expected physical manifestation. Elevated and staggered on an imposing horizontal plinth, her glazed ceramic sculptures mimic the bone-white, pristine finish of porcelain, yet also possess a quiet heft that subtly reveals the dexterously hewn, hand-wrought process of their making. Bulbous, angular, and intimately-scaled, these paradoxically static yet undulating objects fold into puddles of matter, and ultimately shed categorization as vessels by functioning as solidified, amorphous containers for their own formal logic.

As sculptures, they propose an archeology of the absurd, which offers beguiling visual riddles, as if Engelstein has anointed the viewer a sleuth tasked to decipher all plausible permutations of an unknown organism. These petrified, formless amoebas resemble corporeal orifices, deep-sea membranes, and, in the case of First Find (2016), a prostrate and partially melted Venus of Willendorf, buttressed by slabs of broken concrete. Oftentimes, the sterility of the sculptures’ white finish is punctured by translucent glazes of bright color: in Leg Foot (2017), a subtle drip recalls the prismatic glint of an oil slick; in Accidental Medicine (2016), a wound of pink recalls the flesh of the interior body.

While bodily references viscerally permeate all of these sculptures, Engelstein nonetheless manages a deception of scale that upends the human body as a reference point. Just as the plinth-based sculptures—elevated to the height of the viewer’s torso—appear organ-like, they nonetheless read as shrunken cartographies for other monumental, unknown structures. By transmuting these myriad references into mercurial spectrums of scale and matter, Engelstein folds the futuristic into the archeological, and the microscopic into the monumental—a fluid addendum to ceramic’s indexical, seemingly fixed material history.

Sharon Engelstein: Ever to Find runs January 25-March 19, 2017 at Wilding Cran (939 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90021).

 

http://contemporaryartreview.la/sharon-engelstein-at-wilding-cran-gallery/

Karon Davis: Pain Management reviewed in Art & Cake

Karon Davis’ “Pain Management” at Wilding Cran

Gabriel and Cry Baby, Karon Davis, Pain Management at Wilding Cran. Photo Courtesy Wilding Cran

Gabriel and Cry Baby, Karon Davis, Pain Management at Wilding Cran. Photo Courtesy Wilding Cran

by Genie Davis

There’s nothing painful about Karon Davis’ Pain Management, a beautiful solo exhibition that creates a world filled with weary-angel caregivers, supplicating patients, and a way to move beyond pain, and reach an inner sense of peace.

Physical and emotional pain is the theme in the artist’s recreation of a world inhabited by seven sculptures, shaped from plaster casts and shredded medical bills. The somewhat biographical works include three nurse figures attired in patterned scrubs, the exhausted angel, “Morphine”; “Ifosfamide” a frightening scarecrow; and “Nicotine,” a stoic, smoking nurse. These figures have the substantial quality of fully formed sculpture, made with paint, plaster, cloth, synthetic hair, and objects grounded in reality such as a coffee cup and shredded bills. The pieces include color in their depictions, the color of the caregivers’ skin, their attire, their hair.

Four other pieces depict children, or as Davis calls them, “Children of the Moon.” Representing a preservation of the spirit, health, and memories, and the fragility and perhaps fleeting nature of these ideals, they are ghostly and enigmatic, emblems of peace, purity, and an afterlife free of pain. As such, they are devoid of color, white and drifting, mute butterflies.

The artist is interested in the idea of mummification, and as such, these sculptures take on that role, of a being bound or contained, pinned; prepared perhaps for burial or reincarnation. Crafted of plaster, wire, plastic pipe, paper, and glass eyes, their shapes are incomplete, delicate, and seem to float. The openings in these casts present the idea that the spirits these children contain have already broken free of the bodies that bind them, or that bind older incarnations of the self. Each child has a name: “Oya” holds a scarab beetle, “Mary” catches the moon, “Mawu” holds a basket.

Continue reading: https://artandcakela.com/2016/09/24/karon-davis-pain-management-at-wilding-cran/

Karon Davis in LA Weekly. Interview by Matt Stromberg.

Karon Davis Mourned the Loss of Her Husband, Artist Noah Davis, By Turning Grief Into Art

Karon Davis says she would have made the piece Cry, Baby even larger to reflect the depths of grief.

Karon Davis says she would have made the piece Cry, Baby even larger to reflect the depths of grief.

BY MATT STROMBERG

“If I could have made it 50 stories high to explain how painful this has been, I would have done that,” artist Karon Davis says. “It's like no tissue box is big enough to dry my tears, our tears.”


She’s referring to Cry, Baby, a nine-foot-tall plaster-and-wood sculpture of a Kleenex box that is included in her solo show, "Pain Management," currently on view at Wilding Cran Gallery. Dealing with themes of grief, mourning and resilience, the exhibition is an elegiac response to the loss of Davis’ husband, the artist Noah Davis, who succumbed to a rare form of cancer last summer.

The Davises are also known for founding the Underground Museum, a non-profit arts space in the central-L.A. neighborhood of Arlington Heights, just north of the 10 freeway. Through various collaborations — including a multi-year partnership with MOCA  — the space became the nexus of activity for many in the African American creative community, providing a space to display works and even address recent racial turmoil by offering a forum for Black Lives Matter. Noah also shared the space with his brother, Kahlil Joseph, a filmmaker who created works for artists like Flying Lotus, and who was recently nominated for an Emmy for directing a part of Beyonce's visual-album,  "Lemonade."

Alongside the oversized tissue box, Davis has created an array of life-size sculptural figures that relate to the years spent dealing with her husband’s illness. Made by wrapping strips of plaster-dipped cloth around live models, they are uncannily life-like, despite their bone-white color. Three nurse figures in scrubs, each personifying a different drug, stand in for all the individuals who helped them over the years.

“The first piece I created was Nicotine Nurse, and actually Noah worked on that with me,” Davis says. “We had talked about this series of nurses, and I promised him I'd finish it.” 

The veteran nurse rests on bench, taking a break between shifts with a cup of coffee and a cigarette. A scarecrow nurse named for the chemo drug Ifosfamide stands watch over rows of tissues that sprout up from a plot of earth like crops of sadness. Near the gallery’s entrance an Angel nurse representing Morphine kneels. Her flowing wings are made from shredded medical bills, a physical manifestation of the financial burden so many sick Americans struggle with.

Continue reading: http://www.laweekly.com/arts/karon-davis-mourned-the-loss-of-her-husband-artist-noah-davis-by-turning-grief-into-art-7427255

Jeremy Everett at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London

No Not Never None, Jeremy Everett and Fabio Lattanzi Antinori at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London

Sometimes things are not as they seem, and other times things seem to be as they are not. But very often we simply do not know how things are; we just rely on our senses and our assumptions to guide us through this uncertain world. In No Not Never None, Jeremy Everett and Fabio Lattanzi Antinori investigate this disconnect between how things are and how they seem. Through a mixture of painting, sculpture, photography and installation, they reveal a world which is full of negation loops, where a thing is both not something and not nothing.
 
The world, for Jeremy Everett, is filled with mystery. His work explores the infinitely nuanced contours of experience, taking the way we see the world as a starting point without assuming there is one particular way of seeing and rejecting the notion that what is seen is the whole story. He is interested in the object’s relation to space and its environment, the perennial question of what lies behind what we see, and the notion of an unfinished landscape in which the perceiver furnishes the final component. Fabio Lattanzi Antinori takes this notion of the unseen to its tangible extreme by analysing the silent, and yet fully palpable, motions of financial markets. His work focuses on how the languages of corporate systems inform the way we shape our communities and the actions we take towards our survival. At the root of this is the observation that financial data, although abstract and essentially ethereal, controls our resources and ultimately binds us together. Both artists are thus concerned with the precarious balance of hidden structures, unveiling a substructure of volatility and vulnerability which is – for better or worse – the very basis of a fragile human existence.
 
The title of the exhibition, No Not Never None, captures the sense in which we are always caught in a state of apparent contradiction; the sense in which our lives always and forever seem to be something and nothing at the same time. The gallery becomes a site of profound uncertainty in which norms and conventions are destabilised, while also offering a penetrating insight into the fundamental forces of finance and perception that govern how we live.
 
Fabio Lattanzi Antinori presents a brand new sculpture which creates an immersive, multi-sensory experience exploring the financial practice of ‘front-running’ – trading on advance information provided by brokers. Whilst the work visually references the microwave towers used for the high-speed transmission of financial data, Lattanzi Antinori has collaborated with perfume designer Sergey Dziniruk to develop a range of fragrances that will be omitted by the sculpture. Lattanzi Antinori also presents ones of his interactive screenprints which, when touched by the viewer, translates financial data into song, giving musical expression to the otherwise stark and inhuman data that constitutes so-called ‘dark pools’ markets.
 
Jeremy Everett destabilises the architecture of the gallery with an installation of his ‘shims’: these immaculately folded white dress shirts are placed under the gallery’s central column, causing the structure to lean to one side. In this work, Everett explores associations of daily work and the precarious structures that underpin it. He also presents a series of photographs which explore the theme of decay, where a partially obscured image is achieved by burying the print in the earth for a number of days. In a further concern with process-driven work, Everett’s paintings use a fine dusting of colour in a process that uses air and pigment in the same way a photocopier uses light to reveal the canvas stretcher as the geometric content of the painting. Here he explores the notion of that which lies beneath or behind the world we previewed as the hidden structure of experience.
 
In both Everett and Lattanzi Antinori, there is a simmering sense of dystopia, as they uncover the chaos and peril that lies only just behind the apparent order and control of our world. But as the title No Not Never None suggests, things are not quite as they seem, since just as that negation falls into a loop, the idea of dystopia inverts itself on closer inspection. After all, the existential uncertainty bubbling under the surface of our experience is just the substructure that supports it; as such, what appears to be a fantastical dystopia might just be the true nature of the world according to these two artists. 

http://kristinhjellegjerde.com

Chris Cran in Canadian Art Magazine

Seriously Funny: Chris Cran at the National Gallery of Canada

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Practising Signatures, 1989. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Practising Signatures, 1989. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran is one of Canada’s most celebrated painters, but he’s rarely written about as just that. The cult of the Calgary-based artist’s personality precedes him. Many reviews of Cran exhibitions reveal that he is down-to-earth, charming, very funny and prefers to wear all black. Known as a godfather of the Calgary art scene, he’s a board member at Stride Gallery, a teacher at the Alberta College of Art and Design and a mentor and magnanimous supporter of up-and-coming artists in his hometown. To six kids, he’s also Dad. Before his National Gallery of Canada survey exhibition, “Sincerely Yours,” which is on view in Ottawa until September 5, Cran was there in spring 2015 to put together “It’s My Vault,” a showcase of works by 15 artists he admires and is influenced by—a wonder wall of sorts. He included one of his own works in that selection, which makes sense, because he has long been one of his own favourite subjects.

Chris Cran, My Face in Your Home, 1986. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo © NGC. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, My Face in Your Home, 1986. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo © NGC. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The person responsible for this Cran fandom is Cran himself, of course. In 1984, he began painting The Self-Portrait Series, whose central character is the artist, bedecked in a brown or blue suit and trilby, often playing the self-satisfied salesman. Like a photo-bomber, the main character of the series—Cran’s surrogate, his puppet—wanders in and out of massive realist paintings that depict shop-worn jokes, idioms, tropes and fantasies in flawless oil renderings. There’s a man literally shooting himself in the foot; a wife admonishing a husband (both roles played by Cran) for coming home late; and even a group of gun-toting naked women in wartime Vietnam up to their waists in water, while Cran, in suit and trilby, impotently holding a plywood rifle, enters from stage right. It’s all utterly ridiculous, and it’s meant to be, without equivocation.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Accepting a Cheque for the Commission of This Painting, 1988. University of Lethbridge Art Collection. Gift of Peter D. Boyd, 1995. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Accepting a Cheque for the Commission of This Painting, 1988. University of Lethbridge Art Collection. Gift of Peter D. Boyd, 1995. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The first work he produced in this series was Self-Portrait with Large Audience Trying to Remember What Carmelita Pope Looks Like (1984). Cran remembers being a kid in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, watching television, when a woman came onscreen and introduced herself, saying, “Hi, I’m Carmelita Pope.” Cran, then 10 years old, remembers thinking, “Why does she think I’m supposed to know who she is?” In the painting, he sits in a chair trying to recall this trivial childhood memory, while a large, crudely sketched audience eagerly waits for the fuzzy picture of a woman beginning to form above his head to sharpen into focus. The real joke here is that the woman depicted isn’t Carmelita Pope at all; Cran ripped the image out of an advertisement for a Magic Art Reproducer in one of his old pulp magazines, where he sources much of his material from.

Chris Cran, Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991. Collection of Wade Felesky and Rebecca Morley. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991. Collection of Wade Felesky and Rebecca Morley. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

In other works from this series of self-portraits, we see beginnings of techniques that show up in series to follow. After The Self-Portrait Series, Cran moved away from photo-realism and experimented with Op art, Pop art and abstraction. He likes experimenting, keeping things fresh, but what remains near constant is his Kodachrome palette, suitable for someone whose aesthetic sensibilities were moulded by an early love of 1950s toy and product packaging. In Self-Portrait – Temptation of a Saint (1986), the Cran character temporarily loses his sense of self as he becomes transfixed by an image projected by his cathode-ray television set: a tarantula has crawled onto James Bond’s pillow, and Cran’s crept to the edge of his seat, gripping the armrests. On the surface of the glowing-blue television screen, which is painted with lighter brushstrokes, there are faint traces of horizontal scan lines, the kind that used to appear on television and computer monitors when you tried to capture their screens on another screen.

Chris Cran, Red Man Black/Cartoon, 1990. Collection of the artist. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Red Man Black/Cartoon, 1990. Collection of the artist. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

We naturally know how to look past such visual obstructions and isolate the images contained behind the lines. Cran’s Stripe Paintings (1989–) and Halftone Paintings (1990–93) play with this human propensity to find and make meaning. He distorts still lifes, portraits and landscapes by adding screens of stripes (also nodding to Modernist painting conventions) or by enlarging images until they nearly dissolve into abstraction entirely, becoming collections of dots that only coalesce into discernible shapes when you squint or step backwards. Nowadays, of course, you get the same effect when you view the paintings through a smartphone, whose screen does the work for you—or takes the fun out of it, depending on how you look at such things. These distortions are cheeky misdirections that hold the viewer captive for a little bit longer than they ordinarily might linger in front of a painting. “It’s a cheap trick,” Cran tells interviewer William Wood in the exhibition’s award-winning catalogue, “but it works.”

Chris Cran, Mirror, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo David Miller and Petra Malá Miller. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Mirror, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo David Miller and Petra Malá Miller. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Audience engagement is paramount to Cran. We see it in his Abstract Paintings series (1995–2009), where he creates optical illusions that reward the viewer who takes time to move around and consider the picture plane from various angles, and notably in his Chorus series (2012–15), which positions tondi of blown-up, close-cropped faces, ripped from 1950s and ’60s ads, displaying ranges of emotion, around works from other series, such as Framing Device Paintings (1996–2001). Just as the Cran character in The Self-Portrait Series is a stand-in for the artist, the anonymous faces that make up Chorus—how quick we are to try to see if we can recognize any of the faces, to ascribe meaning to them—are stand-ins for the audience, like the chorus in Ancient Greek theatre. They smirk, gasp, look apprehensive, quietly observe, or ooh and aah like rock ’n’ roll groupies, creating different dialogues depending on how they are arranged and around what other works. They set the tone. As anyone who’s bad at telling jokes knows, it’s not what you say that counts, but how you deliver it. At the end of the National Gallery’s exhibition, there are works from Chorus installed in the staircase, surrounding you, in effect making you the artwork.

Cran has called art “a mute apparatus”—it’s not complete until a viewer applies thoughts, words and meanings to it. It can only speak when spoken to. The words “Sincerely Yours” necessarily preclude “Dear —.” They’re an invitation in, addressed to fans, long-time and first-time alike. When Cran came up with the title, he was thinking of signed photographs of movie stars that were mass-produced in the 1950s (so not really “sincerely” anyone’s, in fact).

Cran’s autograph appears in the last work in The Self-Portrait Series: Self-Portrait Practising Signatures (1989). In it, Cran’s writes various versions of his name, in curlicued cursive, block capitals and simplified minimalist construction of loops and lines. But the painting isn’t a self-portrait at all. Cran took the image he based it on from in a British publication made in the 1950s. He found it and thought, well, “Close enough.”

“Sincerely Yours” is also a signing off, signifying the end, but the prolific Cran isn’t nearly finished yet. After this exhibition wraps, he’s showing a suite of new paintings at Toronto’s Clint Roenisch Gallery, in a show cleverly called “Anon Anon”—the perfect punchline to end a retrospective with.

http://canadianart.ca/reviews/chris-cran-at-the-national-gallery-of-canada/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly%20August%2025%202016&utm_content=Weekly%20August%2025%202016+CID_93aaadabf2ad0aae1b9bd43b2888a77e&utm_source=E%20Weekly%20Campaign&utm_term=SERIOUSLY%20FUNNY%20CHRIS%20CRAN%20AT%20THE%20NATIONAL%20GALLERY

 

LA Times Review of Martin Werthmann: Connected Bubbles

First U.S. show for German woodblock artist is delectably disorienting

Detail of Martin Werthmann's woodblock print "Epilogue II," which also can be seen full frame below. (Trevor Good / Wilding Cran Gallery)

Detail of Martin Werthmann's woodblock print "Epilogue II," which also can be seen full frame below. (Trevor Good / Wilding Cran Gallery)

By Leah Olman

Martin Werthmann’s huge, engrossing woodblock prints recall the surfaces of paintings that have been built up in layers and then sanded down in areas, revealing glimpses of the history of their own making.

In the Berlin artist's work, stratification and discontinuity are actively in play, yielding a sense of cohesion interrupted.

Related prints on the artist's website feature female nudes and other recognizable figures, and the show's press release describes his use of found images of car accidents and other catastrophes, but there are few identifiable subjects in the six pieces at Wilding Cran Gallery in L.A. that constitute Werthmann's first solo U.S. show.

A bridge appears in two prints and a seascape in another, but the overall lack of specificity is not a detriment. Teeming patterns propel our eyes into restless motion and our minds into an animated, agitated, delectable state of disorientation.

The inked layers oscillate between conjuring the fluidity of water and the mottled granularity of stone. Werthmann organizes each massive monoprint (a two-panel piece here measures about 10 by 13 feet) collage-style, as an assembly of geometric and organic shapes, setting passages aflame with burnt orange against areas of cool cobalt. The spaces are ambiguous and the imagery diffuse, but experience of the work is fully immersive.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-martin-werthmann-20160628-snap-htmlstory.html

 

Martin Bennett at Birch Contemporary in Toronto

Martin Bennett: When I Can No Longer Give Air To Fire. Exhibition runs through 16 July, 2016

This solo exhibition by Saskatoon-based Martin Bennett will present continuations of three main strands of the artist’s practice: the Static Image Paintings (an expansion of image-based paintings started in 1999), the Grey Volume Paintings (a continuation of monochromatically flooded canvases started in 1995), and the Variant Flash Paintings (a continuation of gestural works initiated in 1996). Aesthetically, two unifying elements bind the works - firstly their black and white palette, and secondly the unusual finishing process of electrically sanding the surface of the painting to give the works a distinct, stripped back texture.
 
The exhibition’s title 'When I Can No Longer Give Air To Fire', is also a continuation, carried across from Bennett’s previous solo exhibition at Birch Contemporary. The exhibition title and the works make connections with varied, culturally loaded references including William Golding’s Pincher Martin, Prometheus, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome, Stonehenge, A dead rabbit, burial mounds, bird song, the pond at Villa Borghese and more.
 
For the Static Image Paintings Bennett draws upon imagery from photographs he has taken in the past decade, which emerge from time spent on long walks. Bennett reflects on the experiences connected to the photographs and endeavors to produce paintings that do not diminish those experiences. Speaking of the connections between the works, Bennett says:
“As the paintings are being made they tend to reveal things in relation to one another that I wasn't anticipating; and certainly not planning at the early stages - I try to extend these moments. Because I spend a lot of my time in a dark studio painting the images I tend to keep myself occupied by thinking about all the different ways the images and paintings might connect.”

http://birchcontemporary.com/exhibitions

Catherine Fairbanks in two group shows.

Catherine Fairbanks has work in two group shows this month, BBQLA and Artists Curated Projects.


End of Semester at BBQLA. Opening Reception this Friday, July 1st 2016, 8:00pm – 12:00am.
On view through Saturday, July 9th, 2016.


On My Volcano Grows The Grass at Artist Curated Projects. On view though July 11th. With Zarouhie Abdalian, Erica Mahinay, James Gregory Atkinson & Helen Demisch, Dashiell Manley
and Chase Wilson.

Snap Review of Maria Lynch: Spaces and Spectacles in Contemporary Art Review LA

Maria Lynch at Wilding Cran by Claire de Dobay Rifelj

Walking into Maria Lynch’s exhibition at Wilding Cran—the artist’s first showing in Los Angeles—visitors come immediately face-to-face with a makeshift enclosure containing nearly one hundred large, and brightly colored, transparent beach balls. In theory, the concept of a larger-than-life ball pit exudes playfulness. To move through Lynch’s pen, however, you must proceed slowly, pushing balls up and around your body with concerted effort in order to forge a path through the rubbery plastic. A meditative soundtrack by the Brazilian musician and composer Rodrigo Amarante adds a soothing aural layer to the awkward, if amusing, experience. One is left to imagine the dramatic impact had logistics allowed the prismatic balls to overtake a larger percentage (if not all) of the exhibition space.

In the remaining two-thirds of the gallery, paintings and sculptures incorporate the same aesthetic vocabulary that Lynch has adopted over the last few years: wildly colorful, nearly abstract canvases, and assemblages of homemade soft sculptures made up of whimsical appendages that avoid coalescing into recognizable forms. The latter recall work by Mike Kelley, though without the pathos of his sutured stuffed animals.

Instead, Lynch’s stated aim is to activate her viewers’ bodily and sensory awareness in order to overcome ingrained patterns of rational thinking. Her installation accomplishes this, forcing you to attend to the space you occupy in the here and now. And while Lynch’s paintings and sculptures present a visual feast—Vanity (2016) offers a particularly alluring marriage of color and form, as if a Matisse cutout were beginning to morph and metastasize—there is still room for the young artist to delve deeper into questions of perception and mindfulness, particularly in an age of pervasive screens and quickening attention spans.

Maria Lynch in Flaunt Magazine

Q&A: MARIA LYNCH

Maria Lynch speaks with her whole body. When she talks, you are struck by the movement of her hands—elegant and open. Lynch is not afraid to play with her hair, to smile, to laugh—all the while talking about deconstructionist philosophies. This freedom of the body, “of the flesh,” is the central tenant of Lynch’s work. When walking into her exhibition, Spaces and Spectacles, do not expect the semi-sterile, two-dimensional, alienating visage of the typical gallery show. Instead, you will find yourself in a room full of colorful, transparent beach balls, wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

The only way to see Lynch’s paintings is through the fully immersive, fantastically fun, nostalgic adult-sized ball pit. Instead of consuming art, which we so often find ourselves doing, Lynch’s art engages your whole body, invites you to be free. The same themes of the ballpit—childhood, whimsicality, memory, physicality, immersion—carry on throughout her work as well as how she carries herself as a person. Lynch and I sat down for tea at a café in Downtown L.A. to discuss the role of art, the intimacy of the self, and the joy of a matcha latte.

You grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Do you feel the landscapes of your childhood inform the landscapes of your paintings and sculptures?

For sure. I was able to have the experience of a culture that has the celebration of the meat, the flesh, Carnival, right? There is a fake representation of being open in Brazil. Everyone thinks Brazilians are so open and easygoing, but they are actually really conservative. It’s a weird contradiction. I started to analyze all of those things in the culture. At the same time that I studied art, I studied philosophy. The philosophers that really made sense to me were interested in the “line of difference.” They believe that rationalism is a trap. The more you think, the more educated people are, the less they will live; I started to parallel that in my work. I was always interested in this fantasy, this “let it be” of the unconscious, this primitive excellence.

I evoke allegories. I evoke the experience of the body. I want people to have that freedom to deconstruct themselves. I want them to see that everything is constructed—your personality, your culture—and to let that go, to experience different rhythms and forms of life. That’s the role of art, but conceptual art has taken over so much. People don’t interact with the work. They’re just standing there, not understanding.

What is the purpose of art for you?

You have the whole history of art to work with. But nowadays in society, we need people to engage with art. It’s political, in a sense. People need to engage with themselves. People need to engage with their happiness—not carefree happiness, but their strength and empowerment. For example, Deleuze had the whole history of French philosophy to work with, and he deconstructed all the metaphysics. In a humble way, I’m trying to do that with art. I’m trying to celebrate and exalt the experience of the body. Another thinker that I loved said, “The most profound is the skin.” I love that. I’m bringing to the surface something that is deep.

What were your first introductions to art? Did you always know you wanted to paint?

I started doing photography. That was my first artistic journey. I was fascinated by deconstructing reality. I would turn the realm of reality into something abstract, something that didn’t make sense. When I had the paintings, I realized I could do anything.

Your work deals with a lot of different mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance—but it feels cohesive. Is everything you make rooted in the same aesthetic or idea?

Every material has its own embodied physicality. I started painting, but I wanted something to translate it into reality. I wanted the fantastic aspect of the painting to have physicality. So I delved into sculptures made out of fabric. Fabric has so many metaphors that deal with my work—clothes, softness, the resemblance of teddy bears. All of a sudden, I discovered this whole other world outside of fabric. With the balloons for the show, I wanted something immersive, something that you played as a kid. It’s not something super elaborate. They are magical. They’re like bubbles. The thing that centers my work is the body, and the balloons are such a good metaphor for the abstraction and perspective of the body. In this installation, I want to fill the volume of an empty space. And you have to find the space out, like a labyrinth.

The figures of your paintings seem to be hidden or abstracted in the landscape. When you paint these figures, are you thinking about absence, concealment, camouflage? Or are they kind of like ghosts?

My work is feminine—I always paint a woman. In a different series I did, I painted negatives of female figures, and then left the canvas behind, so it looked very ghostly. For that, I used figures of women who were idealized, and I got a lot of comments about that. Now, I want to go to another place. Sometimes they appear; sometimes they don’t. When they appear, they appear halfway.

Your paintings are bright and colorful, but they don’t necessarily feel childish or whimsical. What would you say your relationship to color is?

I try to create something in between. That’s probably why you felt that. What’s childhood, first of all? I want to create another word for that. When you think about childhood, there is so much to that. The way I see it, it’s a person who doesn’t have too much memory. She is just beginning a life. She sees everything in the abstract form. She doesn’t really know what things are. I want the adult to go back to that. It’s hard. We are constructed by memories. It’s powerful to have that moment of “let it go,” to go back to that point and ask, “What is this?” Or maybe you aren’t thinking what things are at all.

Though these particular works are not explicitly erotic, they seem to be interested in corporeal intimacy and pleasure, especially with a piece like “Desires.” What are your thoughts?

Intimacy is this private place. In society, there is private and public, and I think it is very interesting to cross over. Eroticism is a place of the intimate, the desire, pleasure. It’s all tied together. I want to show that in my work. I want it to cut through into the public space.

I see aspects of Matisse and Jodorowsky in your work. Are these artists that you’re thinking about? Or are there others, like philosophers and writers, who inspire you?

I love Jodorowsky. Works have a relationship with you that you are affected by. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a poem, or just seeing something. I love painters like Cecily Brown. But it’s all together. It’s all what you are.

How was exhibiting in Los Angeles? Did it change the way you created the work?

I was inspired by L.A., but the work was built and readied in New York. Now that I’m here, I’m already thinking about new things. I’m experiencing new things, new spaces, new natures, new people. The people here are so free. That’s an interesting balance for this show. If I showed it in New York, people would be thinking about it before they experienced it. I want people to go into themselves and have an experience. So I think it was perfect to have it here.

How does the title Spaces and Spectacles relate to the show as a whole?

Two shows ago, in Brazil, I had a show where I covered the ground in popcorn. The idea for me centered around entertainment, but reversed. From there, I began thinking about cinema, but stopped. With Rodrigo [Amarante of Little Joy] making the sound, it’s creating a scene in four dimensions. That the “Spectacle.” And “Spaces,” because I’m creating an environment, spaces of interaction. You’re participating in the scene.

Maria Lynch’s Spaces and Spectacles opens tomorrow at Wilding Cran Gallery

Written by Keely Shinners

http://flaunt.com/art/qa-maria-lynch/

Vikky Alexander in AnOther Magazine

Rewriting the Language of Fashion Photography

Blue Obsession, 1983-2015© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Blue Obsession, 1983-2015© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Text by Isabella Smith
Who? Canadian artist Vikky Alexander came of age artistically in the 1980s New York of Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, and Sherrie Levine. She was the youngest and least recognised of this famous group, and used conceptual photography to demystify and understand visual codes. Like her more established peers, her strategy was one of visual appropriation, manipulation, and re-contextualisation: she re-photographed and manipulated generic images of female beauty taken from European fashion editorials, then re-presented fashion’s fantastical yet familiar images in a high art context. Where many artists have tried to shatter consumerist fantasies by offering explicitly critical alternatives, Alexander took visions of capitalist escapism— and amplified their effects to the max.

The Four Seasons, 1980© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

The Four Seasons, 1980© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

What? Alexander’s work recalls French theorist Roland Barthes’ dictum on the languages of visual culture: “a code cannot be destroyed, only ‘played off.’” By foregrounding the fashion photograph’s role as a vehicle conveying notions of physical acceptability, Alexander encourages viewers to become aware of ideological mechanisms at play. Alexander’s aim when making these works was to “look at myself looking at other women.” She is speaking both literally and metaphorically; her appropriated images are mounted on mirror-like black surfaces, so through a process of visual superimposition, the idealised image and the viewer gazing at it become, in a sense, one. Alexander is interested in the inevitable comparison that ensues from this collaboraion. “I don’t want to speak for all women, but I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with fashion," she states, "You can try, but you will never attain the idealised glamour of an editorial. There’s an ambivalent push-pull effect; one knows the unattainability of media images, but desire can make you blind to reality."

St Sebastian, 1982© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

St Sebastian, 1982© Vikky Alexander, courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

Working in art history-inspired diptych and triptych formats in this series was Alexander’s attempt to “give something fleeting and changeable, fashion, a longer lifespan of relevance.” St Sebastian (1983) alludes to ideas of physical martyrdom, connected to the pursuit of perfection. A swimsuit model, originally photographed lying down, is placed upright as if bound (Sebastian was shot through with arrows while tied to a stake). A masculine religious and historical trope becomes a secular, female, and contemporary narrative. Another work, Pietà (1981), in which a man watches over a reclining female model, reverses the roles of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ in Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture. In this sense, Alexander’s women become less passive objects awaiting visual consumption in the space of an editorial, and more protagonists, existing in a rich historical lineage.

Continue reading http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8717/rewriting-the-language-of-fashion-photography