Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tyler Green: Modern Art Notes - The VMFA void: The latest unfortunate atrium

Tyler Green: Modern Art Notes
- The VMFA void: The latest unfortunate atrium
: "When I walked into the newly expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond recently, I found myself in a giant white lobby-atrium, the kind of mega-void that has become practically required in new art museum buildings. Think MoMA, think the Indianapolis Museum of Art (times two!), think the East Building of the National Gallery of Art or the High Museum."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Check It Out

Exclusive Video Interviews, Technology, Creators, Events | The Creators Project: "The Creators Project is a new network dedicated to the celebration of creativity and culture across media, and around the world."

Banksy again

Carl W. Goines of 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Jacob Monte Martinez dismantle a wall with Banksy graffiti at the Packard plant Monday. (JASON H. MATTHEWS/SPECIAL TO THE FREE PRESS)

Graffiti artist Banksy leaves mark on Detroit and ignites firestorm | | Detroit Free Press: "Banksy was here. But what’s really fascinating is what happened after he left."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Another Great Art House Production

There's still time to see what I think is one of the best theater productions I've seen in a long time -- and I go to a lot of theater. And from the enthusiastic reaction of the audience tonight, I'd say others agree with me. 

Art House Production's The Constant Never will be playing tomorrow (Saturday) and next weekend. Don't miss it! The multimedia play has charming and inventive music (it reminded me of a soundtrack of a French animated film - The Triplets of Belleville maybe?), live actors interacting with video actors (video designed by Sara Wentwoth), and some first rate acting and writing. 
May 7-8, 13-15, 20-22 at 8pm

One McWilliams Place, Jersey City, NJ 07302
(old St. Francis Building, SE corner of Hamilton Park)

TICKETS $20 general admission
To purchase in advance, visit:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nancy Cohen’s New Work

Nancy Cohen, Up from Under,  2008, 14 x 28 x 10 inches 
(Metal, glass, wire, resin, paper pulp). 
Photo by Ed Fausty.*
Click on the image to enlarge it.

I went to the studio of Jersey City artist Nancy Cohen to see her new sculpture and reliefs -- some of the best work I've seen in a while.  It's very difficult to make successful colored sculpture because, often rather than the color looking like it's inherent to the materials, it looks like it's been arbitrarily applied to the surface. And even when color doesn't appear to lie on the surface, colored sculptures tend to lose their sense of weight. That's not necessarily a bad thing, people have been making great colored sculptures forever, and in fact, Jeff Koons exploits this weightless quality with his balloon sculptures, as does Joel Shapiro in his new work now at Pace Gallery. 

Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower (Magenta), 1995-2000, high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating, 114 x 132 x 108 in.,  West Broadway outside the World Trade Center PATH station

Joel Shapiro, installation view, Pace Gallery, 534 W.  25th Street (until May 15th). 

But this phenomenon makes the interaction of color more difficult. In order to interact, color needs to be disembodied, to float freely, to breath -- something more natural to painting (see post below on “Soft Eyes”). But I think Cohen manages it by, among other things, using shiny, transparent and semi-opaque materials. The glossy sheen of the surfaces encourages unfocused contemplation, and, as a result, the work feels, to some extent, disembodied. (The only sculpture I can think of off hand that is at all similar is sixties California Cool School Sculpture, except they seem disembodied but don’t take advantage of the color possibilities.)  In addition, Cohen’s play with the rapid movement of line keeps the eye moving rapidly over the surface, and in and out of space, adding to the disembodiment of the object. 
Nancy Cohen, All for One, 2008, 22 x 18 x 10 inches (Glass, resin, steel, wire, handmade paper, wax)
Click on the image to enlarge it.

Now, IMHO, here’s what makes her works unique: they maintain their tactility and physicality even while appearing disembodied. Line is experienced as a physical thing -- a wire or string; and  color is experienced as inherent to the object itself -- the materials ARE that color through and through, so they don’t look applied to the surface, and the objects maintain their sense of weight. 

Cohen’s work is a delicate balancing act: too physical and colors won’t interact; too immaterial and the sculpture loses its weight and tactility. (This sometimes happens for me when I recognize an object in a sculpture -- a spoon or a spring or some other object. It’s fun, and adds another level to the work, but this awakening takes me out of the experience -- it burst the bubble.)

It might be helpful to compare Cohen’s work to someone like Frank Stella. Cohen’s work is obviously more intimate than Stella’s (who I always thought of as an abstract Pop Artist). But more important, Stella’s sculptural reliefs seem hollow and weightless, and the color gives the impression of being only on the surface. Stella uses color to distinguish one shape from another, and to create a liveliness bordering on chaos (which might be the point). He never really deals with the interaction of color. His works are an assault of color, but he never deals with color per se. Cohen’s work, on the other hand, has the illusionistic space, light and color interaction of painting but still maintains the tactility and weight of sculpture. 
Frank Stella, K.37 lattice variation protogen RPT (mid-size), 2008, protogen RPT with stainless steel tubing, 56 x 35 x 28 inches

* Ed Fausty’s “Digital Pigment Panoramas” can be seen at Sawadee Thai Restaurant, 137 Newark Ave. in  Downtown Jersey City until June 28th. There will be a reception for him on May 18th, 6-8 pm.

Some Worthwhile Links:

  1. Harmonious minds: The hunt for universal music - life - 10 May 2010 - New Scientist
  2. High Stakes Criticism: An Interview with Greil Marcus < Features | PopMatters: An Interview with pop music critic Greil Marcus"
  3. The joy of cubism | Art and design | Jonathan Jones, "The joy of cubism" Intellectual attempts to understand the cubist world of Picasso and Braque are misplaced – we should just enjoy it"
  4. The pros and cons of financial innovation : The New Yorker: "THE FINANCIAL PAGE, TOO CLEVER BY HALF? by James Surowiecki"

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Movie Worth Seeing

Don’t miss Exit Through the Gift Shop, the brilliant house of mirrors documentary by British street artist, Banksy. Here is an excellent review by Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. And here, some background material about Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta) in L A Weekly.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Soft Eyes

I’m actually not going to write about Julia Roberts -- but I’m glad I got your attention. What I want to write about is a different kind of “soft eyes.” It’s a way to look at paintings, especially paintings involved with spatial illusions and the interaction of color.  To experience this type of painting -- to allow the illusions to happen -- I believe it’s necessary to look with “soft eyes.” That is, to look with passive receptivity, without focusing on any one thing, to pay gentle attention to peripheral as well as central vision, to allow the distinction between figure and ground to dissolve by, as it were, looking through the painting.

I know this sounds atypically Zen for me, and in fact it is a concept taught in Aikido,  but also Neuro-Linguistic Programming and equestrianismIn addition, my old friend, the physiologist and psychologist, the late Ed Wortz (LA shrink to the art stars) told me once that your eyes dilate when you look at someone you love, and that’s why loved ones seem to glow. I think “soft eyes” is a similar phenomenon -- it’s like falling in love.   

CLAUDE MONET, Les Bassin aux nymphéas
1917-1919, Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 78 3/4 inches

I bring this up now because I just fell in love -- with the show Claude Monet, Late Work at the Gagosian Gallery (until June 26th). Yes, the same gallery that gave us the great Pablo Picasso, Mosqueteros show last year (Larry is such a show off!).   These are paintings of light and space. Colors breath and interact with adjacent colors, making them appear brighter and sometimes changing their hue. Figure and ground, especially in the latest paintings, the Nymphéas, are ambiguous to the point where they sometimes merge. Even our point of view -- where we are in space relative to the image -- is confusing. Are we floating above the waterlilies? Looking through them? Looking at a reflection? There is very little to grasp and hold on to here -- you just have to let go and love them.  
CLAUDE MONET, Nymphéas, 1914-1917, 
Oil on canvas, 59 x 78 3/4 inches