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.
Funk upon a time, Brian Belott and Jesse Greenberg teamed up to create a two man show for Gallery Loyal in Sweden. I was wondering how to explain the work, but in the press release it says that “Not being able to pin down exactly what these objects are referring to is one of their powers,” so it’s better unexplained. I asked Brian about the power of not knowing and funkiness once, and he explained that working funky meant the difference between drawing inspiration from the sadness of the Blues, or the celebration of George Clinton and Parliment Funkadelic. The work in this show feels like a mash up between the ancient Egyptian religion, which at the time was thought to keep the sun rising, and today’s science fiction; a mythological range from prehistory to the future, it either expands time or contracts it depending on whether you like the Blues or P-Funk.
For people who have a soft spot for early animation Jeremy Tinder’s new work pricks the skin like Cupid’s arrow. The strangely solid little people remind me of rock crystals or the thread spools that R. Crumb would draw faces on, something small, secret and precious. If they weren’t painted I would want to put one in my pocket to talk too when I felt down and out. Ok, that was weird, but you see where I was going with that.
Amy Mahnick takes garbage, things like empty plastic containers and packing tape, and makes paintings. The paintings are very realistic, which isn’t something that I normally get excited about, but this case is special, because the realistic technique serves the purpose of making us say “Hey, that garbage is beautiful.” It makes us think about living better. Maybe our stuff could be put to good use, maybe we could be more graceful, maybe our garbage could serve a higher purpose like Amy’s.