Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sarah Cain at Honor Fraser

This show is up only for a couple more days — it closes October 13! So if you’d like to see it, be sure to make it out to Culver City this week.

Sarah Cain’s “Freedom is a Prime Number” at Honor Fraser has a number of large canvases which combine painting with craft materials, and in some cases leaves, branches, and other items affixed to the surface. In the canvases, she uses gold chains, decorative feathers, plastic jewels, and ribbons in a high-color abstraction meets arts-and-crafts store.

“carnival cruise,” 2012
Beads, thread, plastic bags, gouache,
acrylic and silver leaf on canvas
62 x 48 x 7 inches

Cain also has a large installation, and her strategies remind me of hybrid painting/sculpture objects by artists like Jessica Stockholder. Her work engages the walls and the floor, creating a kind of cubic painting surface, always ultimately flat, but also moving horizontally toward your feet.

“so there, it’s air,” 2012 Plastic, cardboard, bench, beads, string, palm frond, rock, gloss, acrylic, canvas, stretcher bars and silver leaf on wall and floor Dimensions variable


Matt Connors at Cherry and Martin

In Sandpaper Sleeve, Matt Connors, who earned his MFA from Yale University in 2006, shows a series of paintings (and painting-esque sculptures) that are like a cross between color field painters like Mark Rothko and “Neo-Geo” painters like Peter Halley. A special floor is installed in the gallery that produces a particular sound as you step on it, and suggests the kind of dense platform that his painting refuses, in its reliance on diffused, thin color.

What Was Music, 2012. Poplar and oil. 68.5 x 40.75 inches, 173.99 x 103.51 centimeters.


Connors’ work is simple, referencing itself mostly to the history of abstract painting, and doing some dancing between rigorous geometry and the more diffused, romantic color field painters.  Barnett Newman would seem a natural reference for him, and indeed he reprises Newman in a painting, but with considerably less macho colors, and on a smaller scale.  Most of Connors’ pictures are just-smaller than body size, making them more window-like. Show is open till October 27th.

Installation of the exhibition, ‘Matt Connors: Sandpaper Sleeve’
Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles

Tom Lawson at David Kordansky

Tom Lawson, artist and Dean of the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), is typically associated with the Pictures Generation artists, and their concerns with the politics of the image, their circulation in media and visual culture, and the processes by which these images are made. Lawson’s current show, “In the Shadow of the Beast,” is composed of recent paintings, which borrow some of the visual cues of his prior work, while continuing in a painterly vein.

“Into the Night,” 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches (182.9 x 213.4 cm) and “Walking On Water,” 2012, oil on canvas, 84 x 72 inches (213.4 x 182.9 cm), installation views, David Kordansky Gallery, 2012.

Lawson’s imagery pulls from numerous sources. One source, classical Greco-Roman statuary, recurs in most of the paintings, but in a painterly way that suggests to me the cover of 1960’s paperbacks of radical social theory put out by presses like Pelican. The association on my part may be random, drawn from my own perusal of my father’s book collection, which I inherited from him, but it is also prompted by a recent project Lawson did at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where he and co-editor Stacey Allen of East of Borneo curated a library of texts (mostly from the 1970’s, but drawing on the radical authors writing in the 1960’s) that strongly influenced the development of Cal Arts.

This is only one of many avenues for entering the work, whether from the paintings’ imagery and rhetoric, graphical style, color (I’m told the colors were chosen from fashion “color forecating” about what colors are trending up next season), or cultural references. The show closes October 20th.

Mary Weatherford at LA><ART

While you’re in Culver City, you might consider seeing Mary Weatherford’s show “Bakersfield Paintings” at LA><ART.  The paintings have one signature move, which is the placement of one piece of neon on an abstract gestural field. The title “Barkersfield Paintings” comes from the site where the work was largely completed, Bakersfield, California, as a part of the California State University Barkersfield visiting artist program.

Bakersfield Paintings, installation view at LAXART, 2012.

The gamble of the paintings seems to me to be whether this neon element can work – it challenges both the flatness of the canvas, using the entire surface as the “ground” to the neon tube’s “figure,” while also messing with the typical optical operation one has while looking at a painting. If we can characterize the experience of looking at a painting as a viewer’s gaze falling on the surface of the canvas, in this case the neon light projects  out at the viewer.  How does this change the experience of the ground, of the painting? Does the whole work as a painting, or is it just a painting with a neon light in the way? 

Show closes October 27.

April Street at Carter & Citizen

I recently saw a show of interesting paintings at the small gallery Carter & Citizen in the Culver City Arts District, on La Cienega Avenue (not Boulevard, note).  The show is called “Portraits and Ropes,” consisting of small canvases, hung or draped with cloth, next to other hung or draped objects.  

Man has always doubled himself as a means of understanding himself, 2012. acrylic and hosiery on canvas. 45 × 82 × 4 inches

The titles suggest deeply reflective or psychological themes, while the formalism of the work posits a correlation to the structure and function of painting.  There is an interesting expansion and contraction between the works, as the paintings become either unravelings or displays of the painted hosiery, while the hanging hosiery becomes a kind of twisting of the paintings. Bronze elements that seem like jewelry or decoration push the work toward a dialogue with the material as clothing, but if a body is present in the work, it is the body of the canvas.

I love you, you left me, don’t ever leave me (mother and son), 2012. acrylic and hosiery on canvas. 62 × 70 x 5.5 inches

Show closes October 20.

Recent Reading

Hi Class,

I wanted to share some of the reading about painting I’ve been doing. Both of these are essays by David Joselit, an art historian at Yale University, who has been writing recently about painting, particularly painters like Amy Sillman, Cheyney Thompson, Jutta Koether, R. H. Quaytman, and Michael Krebber.

The first essay, being a bit more historical, was actually written more recently, in the Summer 2011 issue of Artforum.  Called “Signal Processing,” Joselit examines the use of gesture and abstraction from he 1950s through the contemporary painters listed above. He posits a shift from Abstract Expressionism’s use of the gesture as a sign which reads in multiple ways and at various speeds within a canvas, to a more outward gesture of transmission, in which painting registers the conversion or movement of images between platforms.

The second essay, written in the Fall 2009 issue of October, is a more in depth account of contemporary painting, particularly its role as a moment of transmission, or relay, in a circulating network (of artworks, ideas, capital, images, and information. In “Painting Beside Itself” Joselit attempts to deflect criticism that painting is inherently more commodified than other media, arguing that it still offers a way of critically discussing the circulation of commodities, even as it is one itself.