patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘bob nickas

Moira Dryer

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Terry Greene recently drew my attention to an open letter from David Rhodes to Philip Guston. Then I saw this other letter from Rhodes to an artist whose work I have been getting to know recently: Moira Dryer. His letter at brooklynrail.org tells of a visit to Carol Szymanski and Barry Schwabsky in New York, seeing a small gouache by Dryer (photo) and being impressed by it. He comments on her approach to painting, about her influence on abstraction and regrets her passing (she died in 1992, when she was only 34 years old). He seems to agree with a comment I found by Bob Nickas that “she managed to make abstraction feel vital again” at a time when it no longer seemed as urgent or vibrant as it once did.

Here’s a picture I took of her wonderful painting entitled The Vanishing Self Portrait. I have written about it before, when I compared it to two other “abstract portraits”.

Moira Dryer, Vanishing Self Portrait,

I wondered if there were any of her paintings in UK collections, and so far I haven’t been able to find any (please let me know in ‘comments’ if you come across one). Instead I found this video at Rough Cuts of a painting show at Harris Lieberman N.Y. where we get to see one of Dryer’s paintings (at 2.50 and between 6.38 and 7.07 mins). In his commentary, James Kalm doesn’t tell us if it has a title. He does bring our attention to the handles attached to the sides and says that’s common for Dryer. Like the tree stump in the one above, they emphasise the support. With the tree stump I feel reminded of the connection to nature, there’s no getting away from it even in abstraction. With the handles, it is more the process of painting Vs utility that I connect to: was the stretcher held by the handles and tilted to control the flow of wet paint? I doubt it, but I like that the artwork gets me guessing about that.

For Dryer, painting is theatre, performance, and in both these paintings it seems appropriate to be thinking about how they were made. In The Vanishing Self Portrait the brush strokes, (or possibly erasure strokes) look gestural, I imagine the artist extending her arm from one end of the canvas to the other. Then I realise that it’s probably too wide to have been made that way. But here I am, considering the making of it and speculating about the details of that performance, whilst clearly seeing its results directly in front of me.

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Written by Andy Parkinson

April 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

More on Alex Hubbard’s video painting

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I have become very interested in Alex Hubbards’ work, having first seen a painting of his at the Indiscipline show at the Mead Gallery, his work was also one of the a subjects of discussion at the event with Bob Nickas entitled The Trouble with Harry, at Mead on 3 March 2012, where the show Eat Your Friends at Simon Lee Gallery, London was recommended and I got to visit it last week.

Since then, and since writing a few posts on Hubbard, I have been looking him up on t’Internet.

There’s this great video on youtube and an interesting artforum article by Fionn Meade, as well as a film review for Hubbard’s Cineapolis 2007, at Dinca.org where Andrew Rosinski refers to the work as

…a ruinous slapstick video painting in two minutes, a performance impelled by the cathartic concept of if it feels good, do it. A static one-shot, filmed from above, captures rummager Hubbard’s madcap actions of cutting, pouring, balloon burning, and paint feathering.  A tactile, prop-driven film that hits the bill down, smacks up the viewer, and slakes the cinematic thirst. If you’re looking for the ne plus ultra of ’00s video art and performance, take a big gulp from this plastic container.

He also includea a link to more at Ubu. Where they say

Playfully destructive and rigorously formal, Alex Hubbard’s tabletop videos — shot from above in a single take – blur together painting, performance, sculpture and video into humorous and disorienting narratives.

Written by Andy Parkinson

April 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

Farewell Indiscipline

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Regular visitors to this blog will have noticed that I have been enjoying the exhibition The Indiscipline of Painting, International Abstraction from 1960 to now, that started out at Tate St Ives late in 2011 and moved to Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, in January 2012. Well, today is the final day of the show and bidding it farewell seems an opportune moment to reflect on what I got from visiting it many times.

The early Sean Scully painting East Coast Light 2, was a surprise to me. I like Scully’s work. especially the Wall of Light series, and that the earlier paintings look so very different to the more recent ones was more of a surprise than I expected. I was surprised by the surprise. I had read in Scully’s book Resistance and Persistence that this early work was “frankly illusionistic” and I saw a photograph of East Coast Light 2 in that book. But seeing it for real it is frankly illusionistic! much more so than in the reproduction. Seeing it here opposite the Bridget Riley Painting Cantus Firmus was interesting, as there are obvious connections and also differences. The space in the Scully is illusionistic in that it it opens up “inside” the painting, whereas Riley’s space is “outside”, between painting and viewer.

Sean Scully, East Coast Light 2, 1973, Courtesy of the artist and Neo Neo Inc.

Just down from the Scully, Karin Davie‘s lovely painting is highly gestural and though there is space “inside” or “behind” and “through” the gestural line, it is less illusionistic, much shallower than in East Light 2.

Karin Davie, Symptomania No 7, Image Courtesy of the artist

Richard Kirwan‘s painting Depth of Field seems also to be about what we might call “optical space”, a magnificent painting of the simplest motif repeated many times: an asterisk, possibly a reference to text and therefore to language and sign. Is our attention being brought to multiple footnotes? One of the experiences I have whilst viewing this, and many other paintings in this exhibition is the pure pleasure of seeing. Then my internal dialogue kicks in asking what it is that provokes that pleasure, seeking to ‘unpack’ it intellectually, to follow-up on the “footnotes”. So I read the catalogue, finding out more about the works and the patterns that connect them. At the gallery talk last Saturday with Bob Nickas and Alison Green (both who write in the catalogue), Alison Green commented on the many “back stories” of these paintings suggesting that the pleasure of looking at art includes learning those stories, and that it is not a solely visual experience. I think she is right about that, even though looking without knowing is immensely pleasurable. There seems something very playful about being amazed at how the asterisks seem to rotate. When you have seen the painting before you know it is going to happen but you are still thrilled by it when it does!

Richard Kirwan, Depth of Field, 2011, Copyright the artist / Galerie Hollenbach Stuttgar & Zurich

No Other Home by Daniel Sturgis, the artist who selected the work for this show, has a similar optical buzz, only more so. As I look, I notice my breathing change, almost a sigh, that seems to signal a change of state. Exhaling, my shoulders relax and I ‘take in’ the painting, puzzled by its structure and almost laughing when those chequer patterns seem to dance. Then I get fascinated by the blue discs, and getting up close I just cannot tell whether, for example, the disc on the right looking like it is balanced dangerously close to a cliff edge, and the other one slightly further in (almost immediately left), are the same physical colour, the surrounding colours making them look quite different to each other, or whether in fact they are mixed as different colours. However many times I step nearer and further away from the painting I am unable to verify which it is, though I suspect the former (and later, asking the artist, he confirms it).

Dan Sturgis, No Other Home, 2011, Courtesy of the artist / Galerie Hollenbach Stuttgar & Zurich

At the gallery talk Bob Nickas likened abstract painting to the Hitchcock film The Trouble With Harry, about a dead body that is discovered, hidden, buried, dug up and rediscovered etc, the trouble being that it just “won’t stay dead”. Painting, and specifically abstraction, have been pronounced dead umpteen times but the discipline (or rather the indiscipline, its status being highly contingent) just won’t stay dead.

This show, with 49 artists represented, gives me 49 reasons to continue making abstract paintings, or I learn 49 ways to do abstract painting now that it is dead, or I get to see 49 responses to what to do with abstract painting since its demise: possibly three ways of saying the same thing.

Sarah Shalgosky, Curator, University of Warwick, in her guided tour of this exhibition suggested that it was a “walk through the mind of Daniel Sturgis” and she also said that in bringing these works together they wanted us to have “visual fun”. Judging from the numerous conversations I have had with people at the gallery since the opening night, I am sure that I am not the only one for whom this goal was amply met.