Walking up to the brick façade of an industrial NYC building, the rumble of a freight elevator vibrates through the entrance until it creeeeeaks to a halt on street level. The gate lifts. Paul Brainard pushes one foot down onto the bottom half of the freight elevator door so I can climb inside. Genial and quick, he leads me through a warren of artists’ studios, every space is spilling over with the alchemical instruments of the artist: tools, canvases, and paint. Nestled against a large window is Paul’s studio with a drawing table and painting shelf. After a few pleasantries, he reaches into a plywood painting rack and rotates with a golden frame that catches the evening light in a bloom of yellow. The drawing inside is so thick with gunmetal tone graphite it hardly resembles paper. Underneath glass, some images are suspended like intricate seahorses, in a thought-space, thick and transparent, like gelatin. Other images appear to dance languidly on the metallic ground. Paul talks briefly, painfully, about how both his parents passed away this year. He shows me a tattoo on his arm from an old New England gravestone rubbing. Everything, the language, people in his life, and images in his drawings, are appearing and receding like a tide. Paul addresses this topic we all eventually face with a solo show, My body is a grave, opening October 6th at the Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It is hard to summarize what Ben Jones does. One, overly broad, way to describe his work is that Jones creates genre defying art in a wide range of media, and within his oeuvre there are a lot of nooks and crannies, each of which has its own special ideas and charm. His creative work has been enthusiastically followed by artists since the late 1990s through zines, underground animations, painting and sculpture. I remember seeing something called Paper Rad on the internet around 2003 or 4, and being mesmerized by the bold drawing and color, and, not to be cheesy, but there was also a contagious sense of joy. The imagery remixed pop culture with high cultural stuff like abstract painting. A few years later, towards 2007, the broader popular culture became aware of Jones through his animated television series Problem Solverz, and more recently his new series entitled Stone Quackers. All of the work seems to hover half in the subconscious, placing seemingly real and present iconological formations alongside impossible or wonderful subconscious riffs. In Jones’s work it feels like half the colors are colors, the other half are memories.
Jones has a new exhibition opening Saturday July 11th at Ace Gallery in L.A from 7 to 9pm, and you can see the show until September. This is a major show that is going to transform the gallery. You will be immersed in both high-tech painting and the ladder sculptures we discuss in the interview. His televison show, Stone Quackers, has recently aired new episodes on FXX in the Animation Domination block, and you can see his animations all over the internet and on Hulu.
Tom Sanford has drawn portraits of the people in his neighborhood. It’s good to be, it’s wonderful to be a neighbor, Sanford seems to be saying with his empathic ink wash drawings. Sanford is an enormously skillful portraitist. He manages to both simplify and capture the emotion and spirit of the person he is drawing. In an age of constant news stories about how no one is getting along, it is great to see an artist reach out to their community and basically say ‘hey, I like you, and we are in this together.’ You can see these drawings, along with the large oil painting pictured first in this post, at his show, What’s Good in the Hood, at Gitler & _____, it opens January 4th and runs until the 18th.
Jay Davis makes paintings which recombine everyday things into elegant assemblages. A single painting might combine corporate logos with the food we eat, alongside expressive abstract paintings, placing all these separate symbols side-by-side inside one larger painting that retains a semi-abstract composition. I was briefly in Jay’s studio, and he talked to me about Doritos logos, MasterCard colors, and the way an orange unfolds when you cut it and press it flat on a table, and while he was talking I had the feeling of a deep rustling in my subconscious, like he was talking to my id, or hypnotizing me with corporate jargon. If you are in Montgomery, Alabama you can see a solo shows of Davis’ work at Triumph and Disaster Gallery until December 31st ’14. You can also pick up the Exquisite Corpse catalog from Mass Gallery in Austin, Texas, which has a nice spread of his paintings.
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-07, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-21, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-06, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
When walking towards a painting by Anoka Faruqee your eyes refuse to settle. Turquoise, formed into an elongated triangular band, is pinched between two golden curves. The turquoise is misbehaving. Instead of sitting still it appears to flex and blend into the yellow. As you get closer the painting changes, and at arm’s length another dramatic shift occurs, the previous turquoise and gold bands of color atomizes into narrow, serpentine, overlapping lines with several more colors, no longer just turquoise and gold. Looking across the room your eyes settle on another painting. This square shaped canvas is a warm gray that seems to dance. Upon closer inspection the pleasantly worked surface transforms into a swirling design of forest green and cherry red lines. Faruqee calls this series of paintings the Moiré series, after the illusion with the same name. The history of Modern art is often told as a race towards extremes, but will that be true of 21st century art? Anoka Faruqee’s work seems to place less emphasis on ‘pureness’ than other abstraction. Faruqee’s work suggests that we can be more complex, and where artists over the past sixty years searched for the strongest statement, maybe our searches will lead in different, more nuanced directions.
Jered Sprecher says something about painting. As Sprecher speaks, just underneath my skin, the blood starts dancing. Pulsing its ruby hips along to a great horn section, a mildly panicked Bossa Nova heartbeat. This is circa 2001, and Jered is a year or two ahead of me at the college we were at, and he was thoughtful about painting. He thought about the surface, and he thought about abstraction. He thought about what painting meant to other people. On the other hand, my education was from the school of immaturity, famous for using the word vomit and bad jokes in poor taste. I learned from him, and began to look seriously at paintings as more than an image. Today, Jered’s paintings are even stronger evidence of his thoughtfulness and clarity of vision.
Sprecher’s new paintings combine abstraction with imagery. Some of the images are based on variations of a single photograph of three pigeons or doves. When painting, Sprecher worked on some of the pieces with a process of moving from top left to bottom right, the same method a dot matrix printer uses, and other paintings used a more intuitive method of layering paint. The human, the machine, the image, and the abstraction live together in this wor/k/ld.
Jered Sprecher has a solo show, Half Moon Maker, at Steven Zevitas Gallery in Boston. The show is up until May 10th, 2014. All photos courtesy of Steven Zevitas Gallery. Below you can find an interview with Jered about his newest paintings.
Melissa Brown is a printmaker who has turned her attention towards painting and animation. Her paintings repeat imagery in the way a print might, but also take on the physical quality of paint. This hybridity allows the paintings to have elements that are both familiar and strange. Brown’s animation is also a hybrid of print and paint. The animation you are about to click on is set to a mellow carnivalesque tune. Melissa has worked with games, in their various forms, to create her art. She has used the folded paper Fortune Teller we all used in grade school, and all the way up to an all-night performance on how to win the State Lottery in front of a movie screen filled with diagrams. Brown’s new animation keeps with this interest in games. It is based on an old street con, the shell game. You can see that animation in the Dinter Project Room.
When I have spoken to Melissa about her work she always starts by telling me something very technical, like something about the lighting, but we eventually talk about how the patterns and spaces in the work make us feel. This new work has a sort of physical effect on me, like a great bass line that comes out of nowhere, and, even though you’re in a bad mood, makes you dance with your seat belt on at a red light in your car at an intersection. Brown is in a group show at a Bright Lyons called Freak Furniture Fan Club with two other great printmakers Leif Golberg and Erin Rosenthal.
Lisa Alonzo’s sugary technique obscures a dark symbolic core. The images are beautiful and the technique is divine. In fact, the technique is a refinement of one of the high points of Modern painting, Pointillism, and Alonzo adds another, almost hysterical layer to Seurat’s Le Grande Jatte, by combining the beauty of Pointillism’s ballet of color with the designer frosting florets of a confectioner. According to the press release from Claire Oliver Gallery, that excess of beauty, when compared with the otherwise violent or mundane subjects, a hand grenade, a gun, a beer can, is a critique aimed at consumer desire. As a painter who has often struggled with acrylic painting, I was really impressed by the freshness of these paintings. You can see Lisa Alonzo’s new work at Claire Oliver until April 26th. Photos courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.