Friday, October 31, 2014

Kang Hoodoo

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
Stooges, by Todd Bienvenu, deserves a great entrance way in a subdivided Brooklyn mansion somewhere. Its message is fitting for reception areas, a mischievous "whatever" with a good-humored tone. Cool and welcoming, and tasteful. Brownish and creamy shit-colors and throwaway chicken guts comport beautifully with the patina of any distressed hardwood interior still standing in the borough. It is a painting that lends itself to furniture, as furnishing, for the location, and for the likely occasion. A polite, decorative painting, pulled like a table cloth, and exceedingly well juggled. And all wrapped up in a mud-ball of brownish baroque.

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

I'm the only hell my mama ever raised


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

Jan Holthoff Opening in Cologne Oct 24


Following his Abstract Strategies, the group show Jan Holthoff curated in Düsseldorf last month, comes a solo show at Martina Kaiser Contemporary Art in Cologne. Jan is also in our present group show Full House East, which runs through October.

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

Full House East - Reception This Friday

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.

Location Details Here
Download the Press Release (pdf)
Exhibition Homepage

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

Jim Denomie
Eugene Hyon
Elisa Jensen
Barbara Kreft
Barbara Lea
Eliot Markell
Arlene Burke Morgan
Clarence Morgan
Marcy Rosenblat
Patricia Satterlee
Alkemikal Soshu
Patrick Todd
Jeanne Tremel


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

Thangka Painting with Sonam Rinzin Starts Sept. 20


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.







Friday, July 11, 2014

Full House West - Opens July 25th in St. Paul, MN

Full House West, a visual dialogue between painters from Saint Paul, Minnesota and NYC, brought together by Paulette Myers-Rich and David Rich, opens on Friday, July 25th. This show coincides with Full House (east), which will commence in August and run through September 2014 at ethan pettit gallery.

exhibition home page
exhibition catalog (pdf download)
facebook invitation
photos of opening night in St. Paul
video of the St. Paul show

Jim Denomie, Attack on New Ulm, oil on canvas 26 x 32” 2012
Barbara Kreft, JCH, oil on canvas 8 x 8” 2014
Todd Bienvenu, The Space Between Us, oil on paper 15 x 13” 2014
Marcy Rosenblatt, Moonshade, oil on canvas 16 x 16” 2012

Gili Levy, gouache on canvas, 30 x 25 in. 2014
Elisa Jensen, Flushing oil/canvas 8 x 10” 2014
Robert Egert, Will You be Calling In? oil, charcoal, acrylic, pigmented glue on linen 24 x 30” 2014










Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Hours: By Appointment Only

From June 29 through the month of August, the gallery will be open by appointment only.  Regular weekend hours will commence again on Saturday, September 6.