November 6, 2013

Todd Bienvenu at Life on Mars on Friday

Constellations, 2013, at Life on Mars

The specter of false consciousness still haunts the art world. New art stars are still received either with mawkish tones of hope or with a Bronx cheer. For thirty years we have been snared in this ambivalent jag. Criticism takes refuge in elaborate workarounds and risorgimenti. Brooklyn takes truckloads of guff for truckloads of hubris. And very few painters have been able to crack this mess open and splay it out as deliciously as Todd Bienvenu.

September 26, 2013

Move in Freedom

Move in freedom, move in total freedom, and each moment remember to drop the past. It accumulates like dust. Each moment you have experienced something, and then it goes on accumulating. Don't accumulate it. Just go on ceasing as far as the past is concerned, dying as far as the past is concerned, so you are totally alive, throbbing, pulsating, streaming, and, whatsoever comes, you face it with awareness.

— Osho

With this long-running show featuring three of our represented artists, we drop the word "contemporary" from the name of our gallery, and embark upon a more general encounter with modernity. And especially, we are interested in the "immersive modernity" that we believe is the key to a theory of Brooklyn art. In a forthcoming catalogue we shall elaborate on this idea, and some further commentary is available in our hard copy press release, which you can download here as a pdf.

— Ethan Pettit

Please join us in Park Slope for a reception for
Move in Freedom
featuring the work of
Mari Oshima, Alkemikal Soshu, and Eva Schicker.

Saturday, September 28, 6:30PM – 9:30PM

July 9, 2013

Barbara Friedman and Richard Humann Open in Chelsea on Thursday

Barbara Friedman, Girl, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches, 2009-2011

Barbara Friedman, whom we represent, and Richard Humann, who is affiliated with epc, will be in two different group shows this Thursday, July 11.

Barbara Friedman in The Ghost in You at Gallery 304, 526 West 26th Street, Room 304, 6-8

Richard Humann in Happy Flies Kissing Beautiful Face — works in black and white, Stefan Stux, 530 West 25th Street, 6-8

And while we're at it, we shall certainly catch The Decline and Fall of the Art World at Freight + Volume, 530 West 24th Street, 6-9

May 28, 2013

The Gatorman Cometh

Or, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Zombie
– the paintings of Todd Bienvenu

Stooges oil on canvas 2013

There is a place in the soul where the profane damns the sacred and swamps it in whisky and crocodile tears. We know the place, it is a rage that spits venom and sorrow in equal doses. It has on the one hand the rudest manners and on the other the tenderest heart. It is that part of us that curses out the world in the worst language, if only to express our yearning for a beauty and kindness that we
miss in the world.

It is not a pretty sight. In the canvases of a painter from Louisiana living and working in the thrall of Bushwick abstractionism, the scene might look like an upturned graveyard in the bayou after a flood. If painting is dead, says Todd Bienvenu, well then, here’s a painting of a zombie.

Zombie oil on small canvas 2013

Spitfire oil on canvas 2013

Spitfire detail

Royal Rumble oil on large canvas 2013

Bienvenu studied at the New York Studio School, he is a protege of Bill Jensen, and for all his low-brow antics, Bienvenu gets that you have to wrap it up, you have to get it right. He gets that you have to give people something to write about. You have to talk to the conversation. His brush slithers and slimes around like a Mississippi mud snake, but his canvas hangs together splendidly. He is an excavator like de Kooning, and he shares that voodoo thing with Basquiat out of the belly of the
American continent.

Trouble oil on canvas 2013

Barf-O-Rama oil on canvas 2013

Wrestling, bordellos, floozies, whisky lanes, death metal concerts in the hinterlands of unemployed America. Chicks so hot they’re ugly. It’s all there. And he simply has an enviable dexterity with paint. He’s the kind of artist who inspires the back-seat driver in the critic. You want to urge him to go this way or that, to see what will happen. At a studio visit I hear myself sounding like Clement Greenberg, “More flat, less depth!” And so on.

James Ensor and Rick Prol also come to mind. Todd Bienvenu regurgitates art historical references, more so than is readily apparent, since these are well digested, not swallowed whole. They are elegant canvases, once you get past the drawl. And some are complex. We get some Cy Twombly and some phases of informal European abstraction, respiratory painting, event painting.

Todd Bienvenu is an exemplary Bushwick painter. He processes a lot, sorts out a lot, I think, for the scene, all the while keeping a casual under-the-radar attitude. Yet he performs quite well the ambitious painter’s job of hitting bases and killing tropes, and this in a crazy young art scene in difficult times. And he does it without ever being rigid, and never at the expense of the sacred and the profane.

Ethan Pettit, 28 May 2013

Inventory and Prices for Todd Bienvenu

Artist's profile on this site
artist's website
Kang Hoodoo, Bienvenu and Basquait, October 2014
more on Bienvenu in our gallery notebook 2014

May 1, 2013

Jan Holthoff to Receive Douglas Swan Art Award

Jan Holthoff. No. 2. pigment, acrylic on canvas (2013)
From the Frozen Gestures series

Jan Holthoff will be awarded the prestigious Douglas Swan Art Award in a ceremony to be held in Bonn, Germany in October this year. Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Jan. 

Presently, Holthoff has embarked on a new series of paintings called Frozen Gestures. Please take a look. These are risky new paintings. They are still rooted in a concourse with landscape that has put Jan on the map in Germany in the past ten years. But the frozen gestures series brings his approach to a whole new level, and closer to the discourse of "abstraction" that vexes the Bushwick art scene. These canvases come straight from the scene of the crime!

March 18, 2013

The Zone

The Zone was an abandoned factory located at 104 South 4th Street between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street. In the mid 1980s the seven-storey building had three "tenants," only one of whom paid rent. On the top floor were the artists and punks who squatted the place for studio space. Some of them even lived there. A local Puerto Rican gang had the 4th floor. On the ground floor was the last legal tenant, Klaus, a German engineer in his 60s at least, who puttered around in a labyrinth of machinery. And if anything dubious happened in the Zone, which it did, Klaus did a good imitation of Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heros — "I KNOW NOTH-INK!"

March 10, 2013

David Rich Opens on April 5th

David Rich Paintings

April 5 - June 2, 2013

Opening Reception: Friday, April 5, 6-9 pm

10 Eighth Avenue, Suite 3
Brooklyn NY 11217

It is an honor to welcome David Rich into our gallery, where he joins an unpredictable dialogue that has taken shape since we first opened our doors in June of last year. David Rich is an exceptionally bold and uncompromising painter, whose reputation precedes him. His paintings are densely layered and decisively edited, and also open and refreshing. They are responses to urban landscape that converse as well with inner life. We are lucky and delighted to have David Rich on board!

Please join us at a reception for David Rich at our elegant new location in Park Slope on April 5th. Map.

Please visit David Rich's page on our website to see more about this artist.

February 1, 2013

Notational Abstraction

The shortcuts and deep space of David Rich

Evening oil on canvas, 56 x 64 in. 2007

David Rich, Paintings
April 5 – June 2, 2013
opening reception: Friday, April 5, 6–9PM

Exhibition homepage
 David Rich - Catalog

David Rich has taught painting and drawing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design since 1985, and as a visiting artist throughout the US. He now paints full time in St. Paul and New York City. Rich is known for his decisive modeling of abstract pictorial space and for his distinctive style of urban nocturnal landscape.

Tell Me oil on canvas, 54 x 50 in. 2012

But it is not the matter of landscape and abstraction that draws us to the work of David Rich, but rather the optical and the non-optical in his work. Rich’s work has a stringency that avoids the assumed virtue of abstraction. There is in his work a restrained approach and an economy of means that signal other orders of event. The paintings are a pleasure to look at as abstractions and as landscapes, but they offer shortcuts as well to the artwork as a conceptual and non-optical matter — to “things not seen”, as Clarence Morgan aptly puts it in his essay for the catalog that is the principal reference on David Rich at present.

Neva Wuda Thunk It oil on canvas, 56 x 62 in. 2012

It is a creed of our gallery that painting should address the definition of the art object, as the conceptual artists did some 40 years ago. Matters of genre and lineage in painting as such are secondary. So we look for a painting that can free itself up from genre and a take hold of ideation.

Rich’s paintings amount to a kind of “index” of marking and noting. It is where abstraction verges upon hermeneutic concerns of language and conceptual art. In Rich’s shorthand, there is a cut-to-the-chase quality that feels like it gets under the hood of things, and does not abide the assumption of abstraction.

Configuration acrylic on paper, 9 x 10.5 in. 2012

Rich has codified abstraction in a way as to wrap up certain of its main issues, and then he also diagrams the outer conditions of the artwork — the material, labor, the ethics of the act. This he does with interventions that are sometimes self-effacing or boldly indifferent to the more optical aspects of the picture. A signature device in Rich’s work is his use of areas of black or deep dark colors to accentuate, lock in, or obliterate passages on the canvas. It invokes flatness, it trades with the “support” that was so important to American color field painters, and the motif of segmentation also draws out the question of an artwork’s organic unity as opposed to its potential disunity, its “rupture,” and so on.

Place of Open Intervals oil on canvas, 56 x 60 in. 2012

David Rich is a respected draftsman-instructor in the considerable world of abstract painting, and a draftsman whose work is committed to the initial proposition of the work of art, not to the perpetuation of a genre. And while “the initial proposition of the work of art” may elicit groans of familiarity, it is also the case that no really interesting contemplation of art is sustainable without it. Art as a species has never been exhausted or overcome by a critical strategy. Though at this point, “abstraction” may yet be overcome by the critical strategy of an artist who puts it to an unexpected use.

These canvases suggest a great deal of scoping, adjusting, and orienting within a renewed domain. That may be a fair enough description of what anyone seeks in a painting. But with the addition of David Rich to our gallery, I do feel we have come closer to articulating what a generalist and conceptualist approach to painting means. I call it a “shaken out” approach, which I assume is not lost upon other observers of painting today.

Little Painting for Charlie Stolerow
acrylic on paper, 5 x 7 in. 2012

But if so-called abstract painting once again becomes the default case study for art theory, it stands to reason there might be a shakeup in the various orders of abstractionism. The jargon of abstraction may undergo distortions. Fundamental concepts may be understood in new ways. Once more the special history of painting passes through the general history of art, with both now having imbibed deeply from the wells of conceptual art and critical theory. Painting today is not the revivalist movement it was in the 1980s, where the medium was presented as a provocation by virtue of its being painting and not conceptualism. Now the onus is on the painter to be the conceptualist, and the focus of painting has shifted from style and allegory to include other structures of the artwork as well.

David Rich is a known quantity in circles of abstract painting since the 1970s, sometimes called post-abstraction, where the invisible dimensions of a canvas have been long considered. The 61-year old painter from Minneapolis has captured the interest of young painters in Brooklyn whose work is generalist in approach. And this may be owing to a stripped-down approach that is appealing to artists today who are looking for a new organizing principle for non-objective painting. Rich has reinvented abstraction as a notational form. He has taken from abstraction only as much as he needs to explore art as a general matter, but not enough to get him mired in the vicissitudes of a genre.

Kulu Se acrylic on paper, 9 x 10.5 in. 2012

Episode oil on canvas, 54 x 50 in. 2012
Cutting Light oil on canvas, 56 x 62 in. 2012

The small acrylic works in Rich’s studio on the Lower East Side are a bold, crackling suite of historicist forms, serialized across the room, cinematic, evanescent. Cinematic movement is key to Rich’s paintings. He is an artist who works often with negative space and deep space, and he uses surface space to index these complex, non-optical maneuvers. A frame-like, instantaneous mode of perception stabilizes the focus of his paintings upon more than one structure at a time. Filmic movement jump cuts across the canvas, revealing and effacing, in a shadow movement of the painting that is indifferent to optics, and uncompromising.

Night LES series 2013, acrylic
Night Summer LES series 2013, acrylic
Painting Creature LES series 2013, acrylic
Interval LES series 2013, acrylic

Painting is not just a matter of adding one thing after another in some sequence of calculated or spontaneous gestures. One must take aim, and the painting should be determined in the first stroke. All subsequent maneuvers are an interrogation of the initial impulse. This does not mean a premeditated painting, but it does mean a process that is reflexive, that tends toward reconciling itself with the “damage done,” so to speak, rather than to try to repair the damage with add-ons.

Warehouses and Water
mixed media on paper, 10 x 12 in. 2006
Evening, Warehouses and Water
oil on canvas, 42 x 40 in. 2006

Above are a canvas and a sketch from the David Rich catalog of 2010 that are good examples of the cinematic in his work. In the sketch, Warehouses and Water(2006), there is a touch of impressionism just to “cheat” the eye into position. Then in one punch come the frame, the ground, the raw material, as if shot through an old film projector at high speed. A similar effect obtains in the oil painting of the same year, Evening, Warehouses and Water, where a single frame of impressionism beats through the paint at cinematic speed. The vertical scratch of orange light along the side of the building captures the speed, locks the projector in a spasm, a lurch in time where we can grasp a point of velocity.

mixed media on paper, 12 x 12 in. 2007

In Intervals (2007) there is a bold argument in blue and black, overcast with a vapor of yellow rag-wipe, a bright orange ground lifting from the rear. The whole of the painting is keyed to a neat tie-off in the bottom third and a nudge to the left. At first pass it appears the yellow rag-wipe is a bit timid and arbitrary as painting. On second it becomes clear that it forms a pinwheel of highlights that rotates counterclockwise along an arch supported, indeed, by the bold argument in blue and black. The rotating highlights glide into the source of their light, which of course is in the axis of the tie-off in the bottom third.

There is complicated highlighting in Intervals. Strong passages of orange mitigate the pinwheel of yellow rag-wipe, yet are cold, though orange, for they staunchly belong to another order of events. Indeed, all of the orange passages in this painting are time-based process painting, and each is neatly pegged as such. The orange passages belong to a non-optical phase of the painting. Yet the yellow rag-wipe shares the light of the orange ground and matches it in tone. Still there is a long pull between the two colors. It is a dazzlingly controlled and balanced act that manipulates time and process as it goes.

Night Yard
mixed media on paper, 11 x 11 in. 2009

Night Yard (2009) comes toward the end of the David Rich catalog. Again, only the barest amount of impressionism, the elemental reflection off the top of a roof. But the rest of the painting is disembodied metaphysics in a tar pit of negative space. A vacuum sweeps in around the rooftop. The land swells, the roof encapsulates, obtrudes into a polygon. A machined strip of blue zips down the right edge of the painting, against a fat blue brush-off along the top. Some lesser traces of darker blue modulate, and a welter of tarry black cancelation pounds into the canvas from all sides.

There is a crisp unraveling of light and layers on the left side of the painting, where another building is visible behind the rooftop. Here is revealed an editing process that slices like a letter-opener clear through the painting from the left edge. The glint of its blade is seen again on the right. Otherwise the painting is a vortex of negative space, a discourse of anti-matter, all of it wiped out in black perfunctory strokes, cutting few corners. What remains is what is arguable, what cannot be argued is passed over in silence.

David Rich’s paintings are circumspect and sure of aim. To my mind they account for a great deal of what defines a work of art, the visible as well as the process and what is suggested but not seen — the support, the intention, the act, the why, the gestures and their cancelations. It is not much more complicated than that. But it is an intellectual exercise at which David Rich is uncompromising. Things will be sorted out, come hell or high water, on his watch, is the message you get from this work.

— Ethan Pettit, February 2013

January 22, 2013

Jan Holthoff interviewed on German Consular website

This variable relation between subject and object becomes particularly interesting when we encounter things philosopher Immanuel Kant calls “sublime”—vistas which are overwhelming, vast, occasionally terrifying, but nonetheless moving to behold. Mountains, canyons, and crashing seas are paradigm cases of grandeur that can shock us into feeling our own smallness. This kind of experience proved influential and inspiring for Holthoff, driving him not only to travel to some of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges, forests and valleys, but also to probe his own encounters with the sublime through painting. His paintings depict realistic landscape features, but also abstract elements evoking experience and subjectivity.

— Robin Wilkins