Thursday, May 31, 2012

All Together Now

stan brakhage

still from the hand-painted film night music, 1986

still from the hand-painted film the dante quartet, 1987

still from the hand-painted film love song, 2001

Sunday, May 20, 2012

worlds within worlds

roland flexner

sn10, no date, sumi ink on paper

sn71, no date, sumi ink on paper

hiroshi sugimoto

lightning fields, 2009, gelatin silver print

lightning fields, 2009, gelatin silver print

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

on paper

john rosewall

queen catherine, 2012, archival pigment print

the ox-bow incident, 2012, archival pigment print

antoni tapies

saint gall, 1962, lithograph

transpuar, n.d., etching and aquatint

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the brother from another planet

edward mapplethorpe

variation no. 10, 2011, silver gelatin print

variation no. 9, 2011, silver gelatin print

more at:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

and now for a word from our sponsors

john rosewall

untitled, 2012, archival pigment print

vesuvius, 2012, archival pigment print

for more, please visit

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Glorious Mess

tara cronin

i would rather run together, 2011, medium not specified

soft as feathers, 2011, medium not specified

elizabeth neel

inglorious, 2006, oil on canvas

rivals, 2008, oil on canvas

Friday, March 23, 2012


michelle kloehn

untitled, 2009, tintype

untitled, 2009, tintype

lesley vance

untitled (48), 2010, oil on linen

untitled (51), 2011, oil on linen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

way out west

I'm diverging from my usual subject matter this week to praise one of my favorite artists, Kenneth Price, who died just over a week ago at his home in Taos. In the small ceramic sculptures that Price has been creating for the last several years, one notes above all the play between sensuous, playful, suggestive forms and a mottled, sickly surface. Each is a multivalent reference to nature and the body, or as Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer put it recently on the Artforum website, "they are snot, slug, serpent, squid, scrotum, and surf." They are also supreme examples of the transcendent possibilities of the crafted object. Here is what Price said in a recent issue of Artworks magazine:

"My primary satisfaction comes from making the work, and my idea of success is getting it to look right. So if it looks right, if it has some kind of presence or energy, or comes alive, or has magic--those are all visual things, and it's very hard to translate those into words."

There is a Price show on now at Kayne Griffin Corcoran in Santa Monica, and a career retrospective scheduled for LACMA in the fall.

kenneth price

inez, 2010, fired and painted clay

way out west, 2010, fired and painted clay

cocodo, 2008, acrylic on fired ceramic

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

we're just living in it

With simultaneous exhibitions at two galleries here in Los Angeles, and with three booths at last month's Art Contemporary Los Angeles featuring his work, artist Sam Falls is the man of the hour. Of particular relevance to this blog is the fact that Falls combines photography and painting, applying acrylics and other media on top of photographs, in works that are true hybrids.

It's Sam Falls' world--at least for a month. Here are some images to help give us the lay of the land.

sam falls

untitled (pp8), 2011, acrylic on c-print

surf wax still life, 2010, acrylic, pastel and watercolor on archival pigment print

tires (blue), 2011, acrylic on archival pigment print

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Here's Ed Moses in a recent L. A. Weekly

"I'd like to make it very clear that I'm not creative and I'm not trying to express myself. I'm an explorer, I'm trying to discover things, discover the phenomenal world by examining it, by looking at it, by playing with the materiality, pushing it around, shoving it, throwing it in the air."

The idea that making art is a process of interacting with materials is hardly new, but it provides us with yet another way in which painting and photography are operating in the same space these days. As writers on photography have begun to point out, and as I've already discussed in earlier posts, photographers are conceiving of their works as physical objects just as painters have been doing for decades; and they are reacting to this physicality in ways that loosely parallel what painters have done before them. Mariah Robertson, for example, cuts her pictures into oblong trapezoids and lets them fall loosely within the confines of a box frame. It would probably be going too far to describe them as oddly shaped pieces of paper that just happen to have an image on one side--though one certainly feels the temptation to do so. In another example, Soo Kim handcuts her representational C-Prints and allows the trimmed pieces, still attached to the image surface like tabs, to curl delicately forward into the space of the viewer. As these artists demonstrate, the traditional view of the photographic image as a window onto the world, and of the photographic surface as the transparent vehicle for this image, is being contested in all sorts of ways; at the furthest end, it is being abandoned.

Marco Breuer is another of these photographers who directly engage the work as an object. But not just another: In fact he is a pioneer in the methodology of intervention, and has employed its logic more radically and single-mindedly than the artists I've already mentioned. Yet when one comes face to face with his work, it is often hard to see what he has done; in reproduction, it is next to impossible. This paradox is an effect of the radicality of his procedures. Whereas Kim or Robertson begin by making an image, and then come at the paper support as an object to be manipulated after the fact, Breuer uses physical intervention to create an image in the first place. He attacks photographic paper in various ways--by scratching it, abrading it, even dropping lit matches or sparklers onto it--before there is anything pictured on the surface. These physical acts themselves, in addition to light and chemistry, originate what we see. More than any other artist working today, Breuer engages the physical surface of his photographs, and by doing so forces his audience to confront the reality of what we are experiencing: a piece of paper that just happens to have an image on one side.

marco breuer

untitled (tip), 2000, gelatin silver print

motion (c-922), 2009, chromogenic paper, scratched

ed moses

ocnaf, 2008, acrylic on canvas

awa, 200, acrylic on canvas

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a short detour

Although the focus of this blog is abstraction, I’ve chosen to post two artists this week for whom representational elements feature prominently in their work. Albert Ohlen and Michele Abeles arrange patterned fabric; printed words, numbers, or letters on paper; even images of disembodied torsos and limbs, amidst areas of vibrant color or harried squiggles of paint. The fact that we are dealing with objects--in the case of Abeles, almost exclusively--certainly makes us read the images differently than we would if they were completely non-objective. Yet because of the way the objects are deployed, they produce the kind of visuality that we associate with more traditional abstraction, based on vectors of energy, fields of texture and color, and marks from the artist's hand.

A second kind of abstraction results when these myriad objects, stripped of context and chosen, it seems, for their lack of cultural resonance, are made to exist in the same visual space as scumbled paint and bands of pure lavender. They end up registering on the same formal level as the more conventionally abstract features that accompany and sometimes obscure them. Language is reduced to visual texture, a bent limb to simply another kind of line. They don’t throw us back to the world of concepts the way an image of a gesticulating JFK or the word "blue" stenciled in red used to do. They are objects abstracted from meaning, free-floating signifiers signifying nothing but the impossibility of meaningful signification. What else is one to do with the amusingly ham-fisted rhyme of raw potatoes with male genitalia--the latter left teasingly out of the frame in one of Abeles' photographs?

albert ohlen

gucken-krone, 2004, oil, lacquer, inkjet print on canvas

hombre, 2008, oil and paper on canvas

michele abeles

number, lycra, man, hand, rock, m.l. cardboard, 2009, archival pigment print 

hand, letters, tape, magenta, red, polyester, body, veneer, 2011, archival pigment print

Monday, February 6, 2012


In reproduction these works could almost be from the same artist. First we notice the austere middle gray and the lines that fall haphazardly, or meander desultorily, across the mostly uniform picture plane. Layers have been applied, then covered over, then partially erased again, built up, rubbed away, with all of this activity straining to reveal . . . nothing much, it turns out. These works are a kind of action painting—or action photography, if such a thing can exist—in which actions are repudiated much of the time, perhaps because they were half-hearted in the first place, or perhaps because, although process counts, results themselves are suspect.

But of course the paintings of Christopher Wool are large affairs, ab-ex large, made of enamel and ink (he silkscreens) on linen. Alone or in series, they dominate the gallery space and overwhelm the viewer. Anthony Pearson, on the other hand, keeps his pictures small, in the neighborhood of five by seven inches, so that one has to come up close and look hard. They are products of the darkroom, solarized silver gelatin photographs of drawings from his own hand. Importantly, they are almost always grouped with a sculpture, in repeatable installations that Pearson calls “arrangements.” One confronts a chair-sized sculpture of bronze in the front, and two photographs, matted and framed, on the wall behind it. Image and object correspond to varying degrees. Lines echo, forms nearly match, or there might be a similar appearance of patination. In fact the photographs I have posted are not intended to stand alone, but are details of two such arrangements.

When we allow ourselves to ignore otherwise essential considerations of scale and context, we are free to examine these works as instances of a common, though by no means ubiquitous, strain within today's abstraction. Each work derives from a process that one senses has been thoughtfully organized and deliberately performed, but the end result strikes one nevertheless as tentative, searching, and unresolved, as if the artist did not so much finish the work as abandon it in the final stages of production. It seems to be a way of saying: okay, that’s enough, there's no more progress to be made here. The piece might not be quite right, or quite finished, but nothing in the world ever is.

anthony pearson

from the installation: untitled (pour arrangement), 2010, solarized silver gelatin photograph

from the installation: untitled (slip cast slab arrangement), 2008, solarized silver gelatin photograph

christopher wool

untitled, 2007, enamel on linen

untitled, 2009, enamel and silkscreen ink on linen

Friday, January 27, 2012


In these bodies of work, ground is the subject: the ground we stand on, the ground of the work of art. David Maisel has photographed the topography around Utah’s Great Salt Lake from the sky. The roughly geometrical forms, as well as the startling coloration, result from the combined activity of human and natural processes. Painter Ingrid Calame has stayed closer to earth, tracing water marks, tire tracks, and myriad spills on concrete or asphalt. She overlays these tracings to create a single work, outlining or filling in shapes with saturated color. (There is a wonderful photograph on the Internet of Calame in the process of drawing, paper spread on the floor, the artist squatting low to the ground, a studio cat resting comfortably on the horizontal slab of her back.)

Each ground becomes an index: the earth a repository of nature and humanity; the works a second-order imprint of those impressions. Humans scratch and soil the earth. Light hits emulsion, and pen touches paper. It's all about surfaces and the marks upon them.

david maisel

terminal mirage 18, 2004(?), chromogenic print

terminal mirage 5, 2004(?), chromogenic print

ingrid calame

from #274 drawing (tracing from the indianapolis motor speedway), 2008, oil paint on aluminum

step on a crack . . . msship2 no. 5, 2009, oil paint on aluminum

Saturday, January 21, 2012

the great outdoors

annie lapin

private outdoor facial coronation, 2009, casein and oil on panel

the glory shapey thing, 2011, oil and acrylic on canvas (sic)

bryan graf

wildlife analysis 21, n.d., analog c-print

wildlife analysis 18, n.d., analog c-print

Monday, January 16, 2012

who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?

My brother and father were nuts about W. C. Fields. The actor’s famous “Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?” was on a poster, book cover, something in my brother’s room when I was a kid in the sixties. At five or seven or ten years old, I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. If Fields had been drinking pineapple juice in the first place, what could be wrong with adding more pineapple juice to the glass? But of course Fields was only calling it pineapple juice—more recently I’ve learned that the well-lubricated actor kept a flask of mixed martinis forever ready-to-hand—and by the time I made it to high school, where I occasionally used to walk around the quad with something like pineapple juice in an open can of soda, I understood what my brother and father had seen in Fields’ remark.

The relationship between one thing and its other is crucial in the history of photography, as everyone knows by now. The Pictorialists saw painting as archetype and model, and the revolutionary Modernist Moholy-Nagy made photographic images that closely resembled his paintings. Straight photographers, the f64 group, and the New York school of street documentarians, on the other hand, insisted upon a vision that was relentlessly photographic. Did this push and pull between attraction and repulsion also work the other way around? Painting’s early disdain for photography is well documented, but not the immediate influence that photography obviously had on painting. Where did the Impressionists get that contingent, cut-off-at-the-edge framing, just decades after Fox Talbot, if not from the way a scene in the world must be squeezed onto the unforgiving rectangle of a ground glass? In an interview once, Cartier-Bresson—who studied with the painter André Lhote before picking up a Leica—reported seeing a small reproduction of Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day and thinking for a moment that it was one of his own photographs. Maybe somebody had put pineapple juice in the master’s pineapple juice.

According to Howard Halle, in his essay “Photo-unrealism,” there isn’t any reason left to make distinctions between the mediums. “If it hangs on a wall and compels you to take a look, it’s painting,” he writes. Critics do still talk about photography on the one hand, painting on the other, and they do still tend to cast photography in relation to painting, and not the other way around—saying, for example, that Jeff Wall makes photographs rivaling the scale and scope of a canvas by David. This is only logical, since painting got there first. But the premise of my blog is that we have reached a next stage, where photography and painting now swirl around in the same flask together. I am focusing here on new abstraction, where the correspondences between the mediums seem the most rich and promising, and where a batch of young photographers are now emerging onto the gallery scene. Recent developments in photography, regarding both the formal issues of the works and the technologies with which those works are made, have brought the mediums into increasingly close dialogue, to the extent that it is almost beside the point to make a distinction between them, and to the degree that a viewer can be forgiven if he or she can’t tell one from the other at first glance. Chris Wiley, in the November/December 2011 Frieze (here is the link), has pointed out a couple of ways that contemporary photographers are exploring formal issues that originiated in painting. I have used his discussion as a starting point for this blog, though I hope to find correspondences that transcend form and move into the area of intention and theme. We’ll have to see what the territory reveals on that one.

In each of my posts thus far, I have paired a photographer and a painter whose work invites formal comparison. I have juxtaposed Mariah Robertson, whose photographs experiment with the demands of the physical support—in other words, with how the images hang—and the painter Sam Gilliam, whose unstretched canvases, like Robertson’s unbroken rolls of photographic imagery, engage not only the gallery wall but also its ceiling and floor, dangling in colorful loops and folds that seem to be carelessly and carefully placed by turns. I have paired Josh Brand’s photograms with the paintings of Tomma Abts; these artists share not only a dedication to anachronistically small scale, but also an interest in the effect of analogous colors, in geometry, and in the old conflict between flatness and depth. I’ve taken the liberty of including some of my own photographic work, which I’ve placed in relation to the paintings of Iva Gueorguieva. Beyond any formal resemblance that might exist between our images, I imagine that Gueorguieva must share my fascination with the tension between chaos and order, not only in a work of art, but as an aspect of the world at large.

In a realm of expanded fields, artistic plurality, and the rejection of medium specificity, what will happen to the one and its other, to photography and painting, on the grounds of abstraction? It will be the purpose of this blog to provide an ongoing survey of the terrain.

quiet adventures in the visual field

r. h. quaytman

chapter 12: iamb, 2008, silkscreen, gesso on wood

chapter 12: iamb (lateral inhibitions in the perceptual field), 2008, silkscreen, gesso on wood

liz deschenes

moiré 8, 2007, uv laminated chromogenic print

moiré 5, 2007, uv laminated chromogenic print