One of the highlights for me during the last couple months was hearing Michael Anderson shut down a pessimistic discussion about “no new types of painting.” His booming voice broke the ennui in the room with: “The future is really enormous and there must be at least 9 million new kinds of painting to be made.” Michael is optimistic, and his art is too. He was cool enough to let us into his studio, the Harlem Collage Shop, to check out what he is up to. Using street posters and billboards gathered in NYC and other major cities around the world, Anderson makes super-sized collages, commonly 8 x 8 feet and up. He collects the posters at night, which seems like a dangerous thing to do, but he’s a big guy and didn’t seem to give a shit, just citing his birthplace as the Bronx.
Ben Grasso is wired for telekinesis. Before painting he warms up, surrounded by mystic runes and burning incense, by bending spoons with his mind. Just kidding, but that is what I want to believe. His paintings are filled with magical forces; it’s to do with buildings and de/construction, but there are other characters – namely beer cans, explosions, and scarecrows. It’s entertaining to be presented with something walking the fine line between real and totally illusory, Grasso is making work in that sweet spot.
Ryan Schneider was making some cool paintings when I stopped by his studio.
When first seeing Brendan Cass’s paintings, you’ll know you are looking at the work of someone who is very free. Color swoops across huge surfaces, tenuously resolving itself into luminous landscapes. When I dropped by his studio he was freshly back from a trip to Spain. Brendan was laughing in this pic because Bebe, his cat, kept running in front of the camera.
Aaron Johnson’s sunny Brooklyn studio is full of riotous, colorfully undulating, larger-than-life monsters. He’s getting ready for a show that opens next week. Luckily, he had some paintings in progress so we can see how he puts his paint on. Known for making paintings that are both incredibly gorgeous and politically aggressive, Johnson continues to develop and has upped the ante with his new work. Now he’s including Old-Master appropriations, political satire, religious abominations, gender-benders, and personal references, all played out in monstrous iconography.
If painting is your thing, there’s a very good pop-up group show up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. It’s only up for two days. Hung from floor-to-ceiling, the paintings disperse across the space in the configuration of an explosion. A bunch of artists who’ve been featured on B/D are in it: Tom Sanford, Jeremy Willis, Eddie Martinez, Aaron Johnson, and Eric Yahnker. There’s a huge list of people in the show.
Jowhara AlSaud makes hybrid photo/drawings that dance with anonymity and censorship. Jowhara started working with this subject after noticing commercial photos altered in Saudi Arabia, seeing “…skirts lengthened and sleeves crudely added with black markers in magazines or blurred out faces on billboards.” She then applied the censors’ language to her personal photographs. The work is strangely readable for giving so few clues away.
The faces that Rachel Niffenegger paints are seductive. A couple of her inspirations are “an obsession for gross out humor and imaginings of fantastical death scenes.” Her combination of a beautiful palette with zombiesque ghost portraiture works. You could hang one of these over your couch, and when your family visits – they might not even notice you had a screaming skull from hell suspended in the air over them.