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.
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.