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.
Jeremy Willis did a studio visit with B/D in 2010, and he’s been developing his work since that time. His new body of work employs ultra-saturated color schemes alongside imagery that is being distorted and displaced. Faces form and dissolve, bodies jump and skitter over water like flat rocks being skipped by kids on the edge of a lake. The imagery revolves around figures of statuesque women, they are presented to the viewer in a way that evokes and defeats desire in the sense that they are there and not there. You can see his work show, Jackie and Judy, up now at Allegra LaViola Gallery in Manhattan. The title of the show comes from a catchy Ramones song, “Jackie is a punk. Judy is a runt. They went down to the Mud Club, and they both got drunk.”
Melissa Brown makes art which deliberately engages the precarious mental territory where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, not in the sense of a narrative which may or may not be true, but in the sense of the inconsistency and vagaries of perception when vision gets a hard slap of imagination. A little over a year ago Beautiful/Decay did a studio visit with Melissa where we discussed her large scale prints (made with a steam roller) and scratch tickets collages of dizzying geometric complexity.