Tag Archives: painting

FILE NOT FOUND work by Margaret Pettee Olsen + Brian Kane

Gallery EOSS postcard cover_o

 

FILE NOT FOUND

Work by BRIAN KANE and MARGARET PETTEE OLSEN

Curated by Alexander Castro

OCTOBER 15 2015 through NOVEMBER 14 2015

Opening Reception: OCTOBER 15, 2015, 5-10 pm

Gallery EOSS

91 Hartford Ave., Suite 105, Providence, RI

718.501.4155

https://www.facebook.com/galleryeoss/

Gallery EOSS welcomes BRIAN KANE and MARGARET PETTEE OLSEN for its November show, FILE NOT FOUND, an exciting combination of work that walks the line between digital and physical.

Pettee Olsen is an accomplished painter whose brushwork offers much to contemplate and absorb. Her large canvases are blatantly abstract but so rich in color, texture and gesture that one finds traces of the figurative. Her mark-making evokes image-editing software with graphic overlays, howling blank space, and chaotic trails of paint that weave sometimes fluidly, sometimes jarringly, through one another.

Kane, meanwhile, enjoys toying with the stuff of digital matter: he’s covered billboards in nature imagery, balloons with hashtags, and people’s eyes with black privacy bars. Both artists thus deal with artistic technologies. Pettee Olsen layers paint until it achieves a kind of controlled chaos, eventually approximating the feeling of what she calls a “media-driven version of experience.”

Kane has a different response to this data-driven life: his IRL Photoshop masks, OMG and hashtag balloons, and real-life Photoshop ‘cutouts’ seem to be attempts at materializing what has largely been a digital world. Both artists navigate a world drowning in formless data, but ultimately produce physical objects.

Data may appear at first invulnerable, intangible and out of harm’s reach, but it often depends on a physical host. In this intriguing show, Kane and Pettee Olsen search for new forms to host the wild hordes of zeroes and ones we encounter in our daily lives.

 

 

 

Alexander Castro

Alexander Castro (b. 1992) is a freelance journalist and arts writer living in Attleboro, Mass.

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 New York based 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?

 

Painting Is Dead, Long Live Painting

Does something have to ‘replace’ painting in the evolution of Art History? It’s kind of up to all of us to declare it dead–or not; artists, collectors, curators, gallerists, museum directors,viewers, etc.,despite what a few may believe. For me, painting is very much alive. Then again, I don’t buy in to the idea that something worth looking at, something transportive, has to be shocking, new media. Photography, for example, has been around as long as I have but I don’t think it has taken the place of painting. It offers something different. Each new thing that comes down the curatorial pike, each new invention in media, is not ‘a replacement for’ but ‘in addition to…’ the unfolding of aesthetics and ideas in Art History. Perhaps, because I don’t have the need to establish hierarchies and designate one thing above or below another, something which has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing art, I engage in seeing all sorts of work. I love the diversity and panorama of visual opportunities available today. Why trade the possibilities of full vision for a pair of horse blinders? Painting is fresh and provocative when the artist is speaking authentically, the fullness of a viewer’s experiences are tapped and deep seated memories and associations rise to the surface of full awareness with new clarity and connection. At its best, painting can instantaneously transport us through time and, as one Lawrence Charles Miller poetically pronounced on a thread by collector, Claude Reich on facebook, good painting can ‘wake up the dead’. Yes, painting is still miraculous.

I could address the post-post modern opportunity here, but that will be another post. What I want to point to now is this; the full-bodied-ness of painting, specifically through the language of abstraction, provides a visceral yet wide open and many-leagued sense of the world. It can conjure up a quiescent yet energetic field and gets straight to the unwieldy point of it. Abstraction, at its most powerful, doesn’t preach, instruct or prescribe a set of rules or circumscribe galleries of thought. It references the known while suggesting the unknown.

So what do we make of it, literally? There have been inventions and refinements in paint materials which allow artists to create work with new subtly and effect. Advances in paint media provide opportunities for painters to keep work moving in all sorts of fresh ways. Of course there are manifold ways of making art; performance is alive, blurring lines between the arts and crafts is alive, photography is alive, and the practice of painting, for me, still provides ways to create objects which imbue the world with meaning. Painting is still on the cutting edge of addressing: here, now, that which lies beyond our ken, of flesh and beyond flesh, life, death, transformation, connection, collision, commercialism and dissolution, on and on… Painting can still refresh my sense of what I see and how I see it.

I move to pronounce the majesty of painting, to call the dead awake. Painting Is Dead. Long Live Painting.

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.

New Works In Progress

“Open Source”, 54″ × 42″ × 2″, Acrylic and reflective pigment on canvas, 2012

On top of a number of projects on the horizon and new engagements, several larger-sized canvases are in the works. I’m very excited about the evolution of these new pieces. Stay tuned to hear about the next show, as well as ‘meet-ups with the artist.’ Plus, I will be spending quite a bit more time on my blog this coming year, posting exciting news and continued sneak peeks of my work, and more. In the mean time, please add me to your RSS newsfeed—it’s simple, it’s easy, and you don’t even have to think about it to keep on top of what’s happening.

—Margaret Pettee Olsen

“Chaucer’s ‘Madonna'” Goes To Auction In New York For Housing Works

When designer and RISD colleague Patrick J. Hamilton requested art works to be offered for his vignette for Design on a Dime’s Housing Works Benefit Auction, which assists in housing people with HIV/AIDS in New York City, I was compelled to create a unique work of art. The piece (below) will be installed at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea 125 W 18th Street (between Avenue of The Americas & 7th Ave), in New York City, (April 26–28th).

When Patrick described the color and character of his possible installation, I began thinking of saturated crimsons, magnanimous magentas, hot and fleshy pinks, siennas, creams, controlled dove greys and misty charcoals—colors which ’til now I’d rarely used, at least in such quantities, and I became excited by the possibilities for the project. I had also read an article Mr. Hamilton had recently written about performer Madonna’s impact on him personally, for the LGBT community, and for an entire generation. Always up for a challenge, I began work on what would become the start of a new series: Chaucer’s ‘Madonna,’ Lady of Bath.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the Lady of Bath character is arguably among the most interesting; provocative, a probable vocal reformer of her time and challenger of social mores, she represents what a few performing women artists today represent in our culture. So as I read about the ‘gap-toothed,’ outspoken medieval game-changer, her robes, ways and words challenging the complacency, stigmas, and social phobias of her time, I began to think more and more of the role such women artists play in today’s world.  What do their circumstances prevent and/or provide?  How can their art help heal and bring our culture’s murky shadows to titillating light?  How can I, “express myself”?

Wife of Bath series, “Chaucer’s ‘Madonna,’” 48” x 24” x ¾”, Acrylic and reflective pigment on canvas, 2012

New Painting Goes To NYC Auction For Housing Works

Details from the work:

Art Business As Usual?

I was recently out of town when I walked into a ‘reputable gallery,’ thinking if I found a small ‘gem’ I might buy it. Yes, as an artist, I like other work as well as my own and will trade with an artist or, on occasion, buy another artist’s work. As I walked into the beautiful space, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the owner placing her hand on the forearm of her assistant as the assistant stood to grab the artist’s cheatsheet, the owner stopping her in mid-reach and clearly indicating that I should not be approached, shown, and/or told any information about the artist. I walked around the gallery perusing the art, taking my time. Had I found something I’d have considered owning that day, based on what I witnessed of the gallerist, I would not have made the purchase.

On my way out, I walked over and asked, “Excuse me, do you know what time it is?”  As the dealer looked at her watch, I said, “Oh, never mind. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t the roaring 80s anymore. For a moment there, the way you chose to ignore me or perhaps anyone you surmised wouldn’t buy or shouldn’t have the art, I thought I was in a time warp.” Despite the fact that I am likely a little younger than she is, I gave her a gentle, almost grandmotherly smile, as if to say, “really, honey—this is how you conduct your business?” She was speechless. I walked out.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear the following month that the gallery had closed. For a brief moment, before leaving the gallery that day, I thought about telling this dealer my “Elaine de Kooning story,” which could have have been helpful to her, but I’m afraid I just didn’t fit her profile of someone worth listening to, let alone speaking to. I do not mean to suggest that building a mystique about an artist or a gallery is wrong, obviously.  The question is how to do it–with good or ‘bad magic,’ to quote the character Queegueg from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

This case was very sad really, as the artists she carried had obviously been neglected for quite some time. So, the moral of the story is—for artists—act as a potential buyer at a gallery with whom you are considering having a working relationship as an artist. Witness all of it, or as much of it as you can. Pay attention to the way and respect with which the dealer handles the artwork, as well as she how handles (or neglects to handle) potential buyers. Talk to other artists about how they are treated. Gallerists, I love you and what you do for artists. You can be such brilliant storyteller-sales people, elucidators and promoters of artist’s work. You are very important to many of us. However, if you don’t know my “Elaine de Kooning story,” you should. Eh, but what do I know? Who the hell do I think I am, anyway?

(If you want to know my ‘Elaine de Kooning’ story, send an inquiry—I’ll post it.)

Update: Several readers expressed interest in hearing the Elaine de Kooning story. I have posted it here.

Clipping From The Archives: Susan Rothenberg Visits My Studio

Clippings from the archives-Susan Rothenberg visits my studio

From The Archives: ‘Before I Left The Figure Altogether’—A Visit With Susan Rothenberg

While preparing a PowerPoint about my work for an upcoming talk in Aspen, I discovered an image from the archives: Susan Rothenberg visiting my studio. This image was taken back when my work was more figurative. As I remember, we talked about how the figures almost lost there identity as human forms and became suggestive of S’s or fives and other numbers, letters and glyphs, a connection with and off-shoot from Jasper Johns’s work, she suggested. (Unfortunately, one can’t see all the paintings we talked about in this photograph.) For a few years, I teetered there, between figuration and abstraction, before I left the figure behind altogether. Now I am conceptually re-contextualizing abstraction, using reflective and refractive materials in my painting, with titles and discussions surrounding the nature of the 21st century and the many-layered Art World.

Helen Frankenthaler – Painter Who Breathed Big Life Into American Abstraction, Dies At 83

I had seen her work in New York, though what I saw was rather narrow in scope compared to what she made throughout her career. Last year, when I was up at Anderson Ranch in Aspen, I sat down in the library and perused a book of Helen Frankenthaler’s complete works. The catalog captured the many nuanced directions within Color Field painting she explored. Page after page, diluted yet rich pigments dissolve and seep into nearby haloed soak-stains. Lingering lines in turn became more defined while flowing through narrow necks of one-time wetness into new residual pools. Each neighboring mark seems to impregnate, either by definition or by dissolution, other areas of the canvas with visual interest.

She created worlds at once colossal and fast while also subtly complex. Her hand and brush seemed to know when to take hold of the direction of the painting and when to let gravity and the painting itself lead with full reign. Helen Frankenthaler, brilliant Color Field painter who breathed big life into American Abstraction, died on December 27th, 2011 at the age of 83. She is still an important painter—still offering bridges, vaporous trails for me.