Sunday, December 14, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014
A Note on Zulu Painting.
As it happens I have an appreciable Zulu painting by Todd Bienvenu now hanging in the stairwell of a Park Slope double-wide. It is a brown and creamy splotch of a thing, with lots of subtle greens and blues, and it goes with the colors of the brownstone. It looks as if a house painter used the canvas for cleaning brushes, and left some of his own thoughts as well. A wonderful wipeout of a painting, and all full of deft brushwork and slights of hand.
|Todd Bienvenu, Stooges, 2013|
It was serendipity that just as I finished installing this painting in the Greco-Victorian hallway of the building, there appeared Basquiat and the Bayou at some "Confederate Museum" in New Orleans ?!?
In that moment it hit me like a coconut on the head ... that there is such a thing as zombie painting, or voodoo, or Zulu painting, whatever you want to call it. It is a subculture in painting that excels at "canceling maneuvers" and "abject expressions of defiance or refusal." Voodoo painting is what art criticism might euphemistically call "insouciance in a painting."
|Jean-Michel Basquiat, King Zulu, 1986|
Robert St. Brice (20th cent. Haitian) signed, oil on board, Voodoo face, 29" x 25" Robert St. Brice was one of the very few first generation Haitian painters who was totally unique. His brand of voodoo expressionism straight from his psyche is totally unique and powerful. So much so he was the inspiration or father of the Saint Soleil genre that is in such demand today, but still no one painted like St. Brice. From this website.
|Stooges, Installation View|
We have this and one other good example of Todd Bienvenu's zomboid abstractions from just at the outset of his prolific run of more illustrative and well-known paintings of the past two years. In one bullseye after another Bienvenu's work covers a staggering range of human experiences and foibles. He is by no means limited to the zombie motif, he's not some goth obsessive. Two years of Todd Bienvenu in Bushwick is already a national treasure, a pristine document in style and place.
Since my gallery has a history with this painter, I can only say we are soon to be safely in the dust of his career, I'm sure. This painting is that dust perhaps. It is a premier brownstone hallway painting, a glorious splotch, stylishly replete with abstract maneuvers, each one of which is astringent. The painting is all cancellations and cross-outs, a lateral dive across the language ... with zombies. And yet it coheres, it hangs together in its localized drama, which is to say in the human property of the painting.
|Stooges, Installation View|
|Donald Baechler, Untitled ("globe"), 1984|
A brutal moment leaves a skid mark on the document of painting. Donald Baechler and Rick Prol may not have been zombie painters, or they may have been at one time or another, I don't know. They might as well have been, I don't care. By zombie painting I do not just mean some special channeling of outsider folk art. In this connection I mean the insult carried from outsider folk art into the avant-garde, as an explicit strategy. It does not all come under the sign of the zombie, but the latter is one among several related strategies in what is now a general discussion about art as resistance.
Several painters in the East Village in the 1980s detected a fault line between the "visual culture" of the postmodernists, and the "visuality" that was preferred by the old school painters. They tore up that fault line. They decided to insult painters and conceptualists in one go, from the same art work. Hoodoo painting is one example of this trend from the strange afternoon of the East Village scene. After all, strong icons are needed to rattle the cage of painting. And there is nothing in the realm of aesthetics quite like the rooster-strut of a Haitian zombie. It is a treasured vernacular of the American continent.
|Rick Prol, I Have This Cat, 1985, acrylic on canvas, wood, and glass, 96 x 93 in.|
"If painting is dead, well then, here's a painting of a zombie."
— Todd Bienvenu, 2013
This, by the way, is zombie criticism. It has no real existence. I represent Todd Bienvenu, I sell his work. And so of course I like it. Obviously I am a big fan. And yes, this is an advertisement. All the same, important announcements about the artist are in order. Someone must note that Todd Bienvenu is teaching in Louisiana right now, as Basquiat is showing there. These "kick-off" Bienvenu canvases that we have from early 2013, stand comparison with the Basquiat zombies and go the distance in filling out the idea. The comparison makes Basquiat and Bienvenu intelligible in a new way.
Think of zombie aesthetics as the gaping vein of folk art entangled in the ganglion of fine art. That is, as the atavistic feature of a discourse. It is the twitching of the insensate. It is the chicken man in Blue Velvet. It serves to rend the wall of intelligibility. What Basquiat and Bienvenu and Prol and others do is to acknowledge unintelligibility in art. The painting becomes more of a documentary mistake, and the artist is ready to abandon art as the critics do, in haste, with Adorno, and just as readily. This kind of painting has no scruples about anything.
— Ethan Pettit, 4 Nov. 2014
|Todd Bienvenu, Spitfire, 2013|
|Todd Bienvenu, Spitfire, 2013, Detail|
|Todd Bienvenu, Zombie Apocalypse, 2013|
Thursday, October 30, 2014
The thing I love about this painting, is that we have a girl who is sixteen? Absolutely beautiful and stubborn white trash. She already knows she doesn't have to live here. She knows she can waltz out into the big world any day and get plenty for what she's got. That's not the problem. The problem for her at this point is just how to make the first move.
I'm the only hell my mama ever raised, Todd Bienvenu, 2014
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
From the forthcoming catalog essay for Full House East, I write that ...
... a painting is not abstract because of what it looks like, but because of what it is. We should be cautious of thinking of the “abstract” as merely a visual mode of some sort. Half a century ago Adorno described the art object as an integrative system; it has an internal and deeply hermetic system, and it has an external system that accounts for its position or indeed its strategy in the world. Adorno advanced the work of art as an instrument of resistance and liberation, not just an occasion for the expression of feelings or taste. This put the art object on a new footing and opened up its possibilities immensely. It is in this sense that we should call the work of art, literally, an abstraction.Adorno has had a huge influence on postmodern aesthetics and on so-called socially engaged art. The time has come I think to re-read the aesthetics of Adorno in view of present work in abstraction. What, actually, is the event that we call an abstract painting! The implications are profound, and Jan Holthoff is one of the most energetic and uncompromising artists I know of who is pursuing this matter. I am honored and, frankly, FLOORED ... to represent this artist. Read the essay I wrote about Jan's work exactly two years ago.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Our long-running group show was initiated by David Rich and Paulette Myers-Rich in St Paul Minnesota back in July as Full House West. The show migrated to our gallery in Park Slope Brooklyn in early September, and it will remain up until November 2nd.
Please join us on Friday, October 3rd at 6PM for a reception for the artists.Download the Press Release (pdf)
Location Details Here
Location Details Here
Jim Denomie, Attack on New Ulm, oil on canvas 26 x 32” 2012
It is a wonderful thing that all events on canvas are manifestations of the individual and the particular. And it may be interesting as well to see if painting might engage with the thought that affords this wonderful thing in the first place. Abstract painting should put itself to the task of forcing a historical showdown with postmodern thought. We should seek from abstraction the space that was opened by postmodernism. We should ask if this new “abstraction” is not the postmodern painting that never happened.
Jim Denomie’s painting opens up some of this disturbing depth. Adorno said in a famous lecture, “The images of our life are guaranteed through history alone.” He was attacking the essentialism and transcendental woo-woo in German philosophy in 1931, and philosophy has not been the same since that attack. Adorno forced a confrontation of philosophy with its existential conceits; he rejected the idealist formulations of “reality” and “being” that were fashionable at the time.
This is not to say I like Denomie’s painting because it is “relevant” or “about something” or because it reminds me of the 19th century Indian art at the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. It is no documentary piety that draws me to the painting. But because the painting invokes history and horror, this is what courts a certain kind of aesthetic adventure. I don’t really care what history or what horror it is. The mordant cynicism of the Lakota chief riding in a convertible through some disturbing actual event … this hatches a space that is dialectical and not coupled to some immanent, breathless, present moment. We are in need of that dialectical space.
— from the catalog essay by Ethan Pettit
|Robert Egert Brown Mars oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in. 2014|
|Patricia Saterlee Gloria 70 flashe paint on linen, 26 x 23.5 in. 2012|
|Barbara Lea Illicit Lunch oil on canvas 16 x 16” 2011|
|Todd Bienvenu Talking About Abstract Painting oil on canvas, 2013|
Arlene Burke Morgan
|Sonam Rinzin Yanchenma brushed ink on paper, 29 x 32 in. 2014|
|David Rich Call and Response and Charlie's Corner oil on canvas, 2014|
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Starting Saturday, September 20th, renowned artist and teacher Sonam Rinzin will be giving classes on the Tibetan art of Thangka painting and drawing at the gallery in Park Slope, Brooklyn. See details here.