Tag Archives: Margaret Pettee Olsen

Westword announces Colorado Women in Abstraction

Westword, A Village Voice Media newspaper covering Denver and surrounding areas, announces Colorado Women in Abstraction at Center for Visual Arts, MSU, Denver, Friday, July 15.  My work, “Vortex” is featured (below).

http://www.westword.com/event/colorado-women-in-abstraction-7923758

Colorado Women in Abstraction

 Colorado Women in Abstraction
Courtesy of the Center for Visual Art/MSUD Margaret Pettee Olsen,”Vortex.”
 DETAILS

Women artists, long victims of the grip of critical subjugation, are beginning to get their due, thanks in part to groundbreaking exhibitions like Gwen Chanzit’s Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Art Museum. With a national show of that scope on the local lineup, Cecily Cullen of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Visual Art decided to do something similar for Colorado’s healthy contingent of female abstractionists, andWestword critic Michael Paglia, a scholar of abstract art with a unique knowledge of who’s who in the state, was the clear choice to curate the CVA’s satellite exhibit. The result,Colorado Women in Abstraction, opens with a reception at 6 p.m. on July 15.

The exhibit includes a diverse cross-section of work by more than thirty artists — a “wonderful take on different approaches to abstraction,” according to Cullen — and has an educational bent, as well, with a comprehensive slate of panels and talks scheduled throughout its run, including one moderated by Paglia on August 25 and a lecture by Chanzit on September 13. “We’ll have a lot of opportunities for the community to hear from artists and experts and really learn about the abstract-art movement,” Cullen notes. “And it’s beyond time to set aside the ridiculous notion that men and women have different skills or levels of talent. Women are now being recognized for their skills as ‘artists.’”

Colorado Women in Abstraction runs through October 1 at the CVA, 965 Santa Fe Drive. For a schedule of events and more information, visit the website at msudenver.edu/cvaor call 303-294-5207.

State of the Art Criticism

MJ&D cropped 2015

Artist Margaret Pettee Olsen, art critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz and Director of the Clyfford Still Museum Dean Sobel at ‘A Critical Conversation’, Ponti Hall, Denver Art Museum, February 12, 2015

I’ve been away from my blog as I’ve been planning and then moving my studio to a new, much larger space. A flood forced the move, but it turned out to be an excellent one. So I have some catching-you-up to do. Here’s a quick recap of what’s been of note to me outside the studio–albeit kind of late. This February, Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, and Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, paid a visit to the artists, collectors, curators, dealers and art lovers of the Mile High City to talk about the state of the art of criticism today. The Denver Art Museum’s Ponti Hall at(DAM) provided a venue for the attendees. The Clyfford Still Museum (CSM) sponsored the event. That CSM was able to entice both of these critics out to for a talk was terrific—perhaps a first for Denver.

Speaking as an artist, i.e., one who naturally spends a lot of time in the studio playing this one person sport of painting, I knew I had to go listen and maybe even discuss art with this word-wielding duo. Since Jerry Saltz invited me on my Facebook wall to “stop by and say hello” in person, I made sure to take the trek from my studio way north of uptown Denver to the DAM. Dean Sobel, Executive Director of CSM, opened the evening’s talk, A Critical Conversation, with a quote by Clyfford Still, whose opinion of art critics was, let’s just say, less than glowing. Sobel’s humorous opening remarks called to mind the complicated relationship between critics, artists and the rest of the art world and set the tone for the evening. Jerry Saltz, comic-showman-critic that he is, kept the room thinking about responses to art in a fresh, anti-academic manner which complimented Smith’s unapologetic and focused approach.  Together, their repartee would be the source of dialogue on art that evening, not any preplanned structure. Mr. Sobel did not moderate, there were no cue cards—nothing like that—just two critics with a no-holds-barred, on-the-spot thinking approach to art criticism.

While there was no prescribed format, I did notice that both critics addressed the artists in the audience, asking about how they might fit defining qualities of an artist, from personality profiles to really odd habits such as having a ‘good luck’, sort of fetish object– something to carry wherever one goes. Of course, being an artist is much more than any profile could paint, but I appreciated the direction of the talk: Artists first.  Roberta Smith was upfront in discouraging anyone from choosing the life of an artist unless they absolutely “had to”, and with that, the discussion about the state of criticism and contemporary art began.

I was encouraged to hear that Smith saw painting as a medium very much alive with possibilities today. In her opinion, there were too many artists who were ‘hiding out’ in performance based work. While I have no problem with artists who find good and meaningful direction in ‘social practice’ it was good to hear that her ideas broadly reflected mine regarding the importance of painting today.  I was also pleased that Smith caught my meaning in a question I pitched during the Q&A, “What is next in contemporary art considering how the landscape has changed and our view is one of a layered, multi-faceted, global and information-compressed world–a world where there are many threads of thinking–not just one?” Saltz threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Well, how the hell do we know that?” taking my question, in that moment, at face value, while Smith noodled away at what I was asking—understanding my question demanded stepping back and looking at the direction whole system(s) are moving in now, how art and criticism is changing, and that these changes are altering the very way we see art in context. Near the close of the talk, Smith aligned herself with one attendee who asked if she saw, “important and interesting work happening in many places around the country.” She agreed but added a caveat: “criticism still lives in New York,” she said.

As a onetime Brooklyn artist, I mused a bit more on her comments on criticism in New York, took a few more notes about ideas that occurred to me during the talk, but mainly I tried to listen.  On the way out I thanked Jerry for visiting us far-flung artists, and then I approached Roberta: “Thanks for getting my question.” “It was an important one,” she offered as I packed notes and a sketch into the well-worn black leather bag I’ve carried since I came to New York just out of art school. That satchel’s a well-worn, paint-splattered thing, but I carry it wherever I go.

Now, post flood, panic and studio move, I think about that talk on art criticism, but leave it all at the door  when I walk into the large white studio with cement floors and freshly prepared canvases. I put down a steaming cup of coffee, glance at my black bag in the corner and begin work. Then again, I don’t really have a choice—now do I?

 

Facture — Finding My Way in Paint

details of recent work energy 2013 Above, Waves (detail), 2013, polymer, reflective and interference pigment on canvas was sold to a private collector.

 

For years I’ve been inclined to put down subtle washes that I would build, layer upon layer.  I was immersed in the recognition of fast painting for so long during the eighties I reacted by defying painterly-ness in its most plastic form–thick layers of expressive oil paint.  When I began printmaking for a living, working alongside and with the last of the printer painters of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, as well as pop and conceptual artists, from Willem de Kooning to Barbara Kruger, my head and hands were in ink and everything I considered about making art was examined under this new lens of printmaking.

I recently began considering how printmaking had an effect on my art when professor of printmaking at Brooklyn College and onetime printmaking colleague, David Lantow, visited my studio last month. David said he could see printmaking’s obvious impact on the evolution of my imagery and the manner in which I made art.  My use of thin, relatively even layers of pigment and concerns for building texture graphically were indicators.

Oddly enough, I had never given this any serious thought before. The idea was liminal, but soon after our visit, I was reminded of what artist Mike Cockrill once posted on Facebook when discussing an artist’s misplaced search for an authentic voice, “Behold the core”, he said.  An artist doesn’t have to worry about finding his/her ‘voice or style’ . The hand of the artist is always there in the work–no need to go looking for it.

Printing provided a mechanism for me to slow down my thinking and to hold me to task in considering every mark.  Printmaking had helped to forge my visual vocabulary.  What was I doing by painting? I began my latest canvases with a fresh, one pointed focus in mind: facture through painting.

I began to think back to other possible influences to see if they might lend clues to my essential concerns. As a onetime performing artist I found myself looking to ‘gesture’– again. It made perfect sense…’Behold the core’. In my gut and in my bones, from all those years of dancing (see Biography),’gesture’ in all sorts of space and light was central.  But how did this fit with painting?

I found myself looking even closer at the surface of my canvases: swaths of thin white, and interference pigments, recorded trails of sensually flipped brushes on both dry and slippery surfaces over transparent-primed linen. But the soft warm grey of the canvas fiber was where I really began my inquiry.  My pallet, though not dramatically changed, now seemed to ask for a spectrum of greys, warm and cool, between iridescent, translucent and opaque whites and dark glossy and soft matte blacks. I exaggerated the feathering of bleeding pigment on linen, blending the grey of linen and the grey of paint , co-mingling these ‘stitches’ inside broad gestural strokes, sensing the need for a wiry outward wending  from vortexes of visual detritus drawing line back in.

Fragility of form, the power of gesture, the dissolution of drawing, traces and steps, edge and edge-less-ness, line of sight edits, a berth of vision– this is what I’m still after in paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTMIX @ BMOCA

 

This September 20th consider participating in the silent Auction at BMoCA. (Update –This painting was sold at auction to a private collector.)

 

ART MIX WavesMy work, ‘Waves’ (pictured above) will be available.  A detail (below) highlights some of this painting’s subtle reflective properties.

Center detail, "Waves" by Margaret Pettee Olsen

Click the link below to view auction items and further information on ARTMIX @ BMoCA.

http://www.bmoca.org/2013/07/artmix-silent-auction-items/

 

 

 

 

Another In A New Series

“Tandem Wakes”, 48″ ×  72″ × 2″, acrylic and metal pigments on canvas, 2012.

Okay, here’s a sneak-peek into the studio today. This diptych is one of several moderately large pieces I’ve been working on. The fracturing, floating, fogging imagery has my head going to places that spawn new ideas before I’ve even finished the piece in front of me.

Power And The Language Of Abstraction

The language of abstraction can address a model of the universe that’s slippery and fluid; exquisitely accurate and irreducible on the one hand but inconceivably colossal on the other. We live in a world wherein the smallest stuff is neither energy nor matter—and yet both. Abstraction can allude to the conceptually unwieldy intersection of these disparate realities like no other visual language.

Abstraction, because it is so conceptually wide open, is relevant to art now because we live in a world which increasingly defies codification. Abstraction can be broad while also intimate. As visual language, it references the known while simultaneously alluding to the unknown. While abstraction can be a viewed in a formal sense, without any other references or associations, it can also be something that takes you elsewhere—if the work provides and you let it. Abstraction can call to the surface very deep-seated unconscious experiences. I’m gonna brag here a little to make a point: This story is about an ‘explosively powerful’ painting: a painting that threw a man in the air like a land mine.

A while back, I was painting large abstracted vortices that suggested a kind of light pouring through them. A WWII vet saw one of my paintings and literally fell backwards. When a friend came to help him up and asked him if he was alright, he staggered to his feet and said, “yeah, I’m okay. It’s just that that painting was an experience I had in the war.” The man’s friend said to me later, “you are one powerful painter!” True story.

Reconnecting

Lately, I’ve been checking in with colleagues and discussing what is new in their process and thinking regarding their work.  Most recently, I’ve been up in Aspen and have found a number of people with whom I worked on projects in my early years in New York.  I stopped  by The Aspen Art Museum, July 1st to visit with Fred Tomaselli.  Fred and I go way back to when we worked on such projects together.  As Fred put it, “I don’t like wasting time”, so the framing projects on which we worked technically fed a large body of  his work.  These days, Fred said, he has been “thinking more with his hands”, making images that proceed  without preconception as to the finished pieces.   It was good to see and catch up briefly with Fred who was at the Aspen Art Museum to talk about his work with Director and Chief Curator, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, and do a book signing.  Fred was ultimately pleased with her curatorial approach last summer at AAM, which involved grouping Fred’s paintings thematically for his solo show there.

Last week’s event was open to the public.   The well attended discussion was part of the book signing, a project which surveys Fred’s iconic work over the last twenty years.

Over the years, while Fred has been in Brooklyn making work, I left New York to travel the Southwest and visit Japan– pursuing very directly– states of consciousness and ideas that could be translated into visual imagery.  While both Fred Tomaselli’s work and my own intersect in a common conceptual interest of creating imagery keyed to extreme psychic states, and in creating vehicles for ecstatic transformation, the similarities diverge there.   My involvement in projects with the last prints of the members of the New York School, as well as my sense of movement and traversing dramatic space through dance, is the history out of which my work is born, has evolved and is moving.

To see my work in 2010 – This fall I will be at  UCF, Center For Emerging Media.

For more information, please sign up on our mailing list (presently under construction-so send an email to margaret@petteeolsen.com with Pettee Olsen email list in the subject heading) and we will be happy to keep you informed about forth coming shows and events.


To check out what’s happening in Aspen this summer at the Aspen Art Museum, Anderson Ranch, as well other non-profits and other venues around town, click here:

http://art-collecting.com/galleries_co_aspen.htm

To see more of Fred Tomaselli’s work go to :

http://www.jamescohan.com/artists/fred-tomaselli/