Dan Attoe’s newest paintings are set against the northwestern Pacific landscape. It is a place where winding streams run into surfing beaches. The sand skinny dips into dark water that is laced with rolling white foam. The foamy tidal beaches are framed by rocky cliffs, and all those rocks, and that moving water, is surrounded by antediluvian forest. The trees in Washington State can make you feel very small because they are preposterously tall. Some varieties grow to be over 200 feet, pushing outside of the boundaries of a normal tree into something that feels supernatural, or maybe übernatürlich. The forest has the fairy tale effect of making you feel very small in comparison. The beaches, rocky cliffs, streams, and over-sized forests in Attoe’s paintings create spaces that are reminiscent of David Lynch’s television masterpiece Twin Peaks; both literally, because of geographical overlap, and psychologically, because the natural world, by bubbling with life, moving water, and impossible trees, begins to take on symbolic resonance. If you were an explorer on a quest for an enchanted forest, Northern Oregon and southern Washington State are very strong candidates for any enterprising search parties you are leading. When you go you may run into Dan climbing rocks or taking pictures of the moon through his telescope. Dan grew up in the woods, his father was a forest ranger. He is at home there. These paintings seem to take place at dusk, when the sun is just over the horizon. Like that quiet time of evening, there is something quieter in this new group of paintings. The miniature figures in Dan’s paintings seem to be dealing with mistakes of love, faulty desires, friendship, and being part of the natural world with its drumbeat of sun and tides.
You can see Dan Attoe’s new paintings in his show Landscapes with Water at Peres Projects on Karl-Marx-Allee 82 in Berlin. The show is up from March 1st to April 19th 2014. The photos in this interview are courtesy of Peres Projects.
David Hornung makes paintings from both oil and gouache. He paints quiet simple, small houses located in fenced fields, bucolic scenes of nature, solitary women and men, memento mori, snakes and birds, paths and walls. Objects in his paintings seem to be a distillation of universal human experiences with the world and among each other. Some objects are singled out as being important by a kind of twin cloud, the direction of light, or glowing patches of color. The paintings are beautiful executions of color theory, which makes sense because David wrote the book on color theory “Color: A Workshop Approach.” His subject matter hovers between observation and the symbolic, and he refers to Philip Guston’s Alphabet series with plain respect, and like Guston, David was reluctant to talk about image-based thinking. We walked through Brooklyn on the way get some lunch, and David said that painting is hard to talk about because the ideas come out of working with images, that the process gives painters their ideas, which is a kind of reversal, because for most people who work with ideas – the ideas generate the process.
You can see David Hornung’s work at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson NY from May 23rd to June 16th.
Jered Sprecher makes paintings that do not fit neatly into any category. At first they look like geometric abstraction, but then you realize that there is something different about the surface, it’s brushy and the edges of the shapes aren’t dogmatically hard like other geometric paintings. In his broader body of work there are images peppered in among the abstract elements, but the images are sort of soft pictures with interruptions, like paintings based on a faded calendar that was exposed to too much light in a hallway. Sprecher’s paintings seem to accept the modern idea that paintings are things, that paintings are first and foremost flat sculpture. This train of thinking says illusions are a kind of deception, which they are. Modernism goes a little further by hinting that illusions are lies that are also moral defects. This aversion to illusion brought us abstract artists like the evangelical Donald Judd, the graceful openness of Helen Frankenthaler, and the philosophical diagrams of Peter Halley. Enjoying painting as a window into an illusory world is a “mistake” everyone made until the 1940s, when some smart people came along and told us to be careful about it. Modernists say any artwork that hides its true nature is a metaphor for misunderstanding life in a bigger way. Sprecher does not seem to completely buy the modernist talking points, and like a bad political surrogate goes off message on a Sunday talk show, saying “Yes, but… I always lie!”
You can see Sprecher’s newest work in his show I Always Lie at Jeff Bailey Gallery in Chelsea until March 23rd. Interview after the jump.
Dan Attoe makes paintings that slip right pass the guard at our front door and walk into the whirling, clicking abacus of our deep thoughts, that engine room that is us but is also a kind of insect intelligence that lives at top of our spine. Attoe’s world reminds me of old Raymond Carver writing about blind drunks, or the uneasy charisma of David Lynch’s lady in the radiator and her seductive song. These art works feel real and unreal, drawn from experience in part, but reconstituted by an artist who understands how to tap into something psychological that us makes reflect on our own experience.
Rebecca Steele’s photographs use a sort-of-handmade-but-still-slick type of light and color to make everything objects, like knickknack figurines and trees, feel new. It’s like you’ve just landed on Earth, and the spotlight on your spacecraft is pointing wildly into the night sky in Washington State hitting two red and green lifeforms, this is the first Earth tree you’ve seen. Punk meets philosophy, and the wiser punk echoes your grandparents: stop and smell the roses.
Noah Becker graciously allowed Beautiful/Decay into his Canadian studio to view his new body of work. Becker is about to open a second studio in New York this September for the fall 2012-13 art season. This is a correspondence studio visit, Beautiful/Decay requested the photos and they were provided by another photographer. Although the paintings are clearly portraits, Noah describes his newest work as figurative instead of portraiture. I recognize a few of the faces but generally the paintings aren’t obviously people we should know, and because they aren’t it follows that they can’t be portraits in the traditional meaning of a portrait of a specific person. Noah presents us with a romantic vision of elegant people, people who are good at living! Wish I was one of those, ha. Some of the folks feel like 70s’ rock stars or maybe authors from the 30s’, and I think I recognize some of Velasquez’s Spanish Renaissance princes. When asked Becker mentions “stillness and time frozen in a moment,” which is a way to talk about the strange nowness of consciousness, or possibly he’s saying the point of modern life is to be elegant in the absence of direction. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might as well do nothing with style.
Eddie Martinez and José Lerma have a two person show up at Halsey Mckay Gallery in East Hampton NY. It’s only up until this Wednesday, August the 29th, I know it’s just two days to get there, but these are two of the best drawing/fabric/paintslingers of our generation. The colors in Martinez’s paintings can’t be replicated in a photograph because the paint is physical, like a thick smear of deep red oil paint that looks like martian roofing slate, or maybe a crack inside an antediluvian sea cliff containing some strange fossil reminding us of how old thinking is, and how we are only here for a little while so we should be kind to each other. Yes, red paint can say all that. Lerma’s pirate-like-figuration feels musical, and reminds me of the Clancy Brothers singing a sea shanty “Way haul away, haul away Jose.” History comes up to us and then recedes like the tide in Lerma’s work, you recognize something and then it is and isn’t what you thought. This is a good summer trip, like the first time you went to a water slide park after noticing girls/boys for the first time, an expanse of wave pools lapping lazily against a big breasted life guard and tower slides of pure unadulterated joy.
Steven Charles has a show of new work up now at Stux Gallery in Chelsea. Although he was friendly meeting Steven for the first time was a little unsettling. It felt a little like I imagine spiritual seekers felt like when they met the Maharijji in the 1960s’, like meeting some strange saint. I met him through Aaron Johnson who told me Steven was one of his favorite painters.
During the studio visit Steven and I talked about how he was working as a janitor, but just a couple of years ago he was selling paintings for six-figure sums. He was another victim of 2008, but he didn’t seem bummed out. In fact, he was just going along, and to use another Maharajji idea, he seemed very present. His painting method involves creating something to react to: a painting could start by splashing paint on a surface or by gluing a kid’s sock to a board. Click read more to see his work in progress.