When I dropped by his sunlit Brooklyn studio Aaron Johnson was busy preparing for his show at Stux Gallery in Chelsea, which opens Thursday September 15th. In this new body of work Johnson invites us to chow down on a writhing smorgasbord of Americana: severed heads, demonic Uncle Sams, sausage crucifixes, fried eagles, mashed guts, f-burgers, camel roast, and mutant sea creatures sucking down oil oozing fresh from the rig. His new work is opulent and glitters like jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs despite picturing disturbingly grotesque and violent imagery – totally Beautiful/Decay!
I headed over to Brooklyn to check out what Ryan Schneider had cooking after not seeing his work for a year. He was painting when I got there; mixing a fleshly color on the big glass palette in the center of the room. Canvases lined the walls, some were finished and some were in progress. He paints all the nouns: people, places and things; and does so in a thoughtful way that reflects life. Still lifes which range from bathtubs to bookshelves, and landscapes which seem to suggest an alternate, more romantic reality.
The paintings are populated with figures, and he had interesting things to say about figure painting. In person, the paintings are very obviously physical. They combine juicy paint, carved-in-words, bold colors, and a funky sense of space. This makes for paintings which flip between pattern and illusion. His new paintings were confident, and maybe even more colorful and spatially complex than his previous work. Schneider recently left Priska C Juschka, his gallery of several years. Besides being a painter, Schneider is also a curator and has organized high profile group shows in locations near and far, and he was at it again. He is behind a show which just opened in Austin, at Champion Contemporary, called “Wild Beasts.” He included a group of artists who share a love of color and admiration for Matisse and the French Fauves. Read some of our discussion after the jump.
As New York’s unofficial artistic ambassador to Copenhagen this September, Tom Sanford is presenting a possessed Charlie Sheen grinning while staring fixedly forward, blue flame lighter in hand, delicately pinching a glass pipe. Sheen is entwined with a bemused, half-dressed woman about to slur out something not worth hearing, or maybe she’ll recite Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player. That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” She’s palming a cocktail tray piled with white powder and and balancing a can of Four Loko. Four Loko is the drink that famously mixed alcohol with stimulants (Wikipedia says it’s just alcohol now), confusingly allowing us to do more and experience less at the same time. This painting is funny, but it also digs in the human condition in ways that we can all relate too. Sheen’s grimacing face might as well be the anamorphic skull in Holbein’s The Ambassadors, because it carries the same warning. Tom Sanford is one of those guys, who if you’ve been around New York, you sort of know already. He speaks with the charisma and articulate precision of an evening news anchor, but instead of scaring you like the news anchor does, he creates strangely healing images. Tom Sanford’s newest show is “The Decline of Western Civilization (Part III),” and it opens at Gallery Poulsen in Copenhagen on September 2nd.
Beth Livensperger’s painterly canvases are full of confusingly convincing visual miscues. Fluorescent lighting, mirrors, and expanses of reflective glass complicate vision by blinding, doubling, and flipping what we see. Livensperger uses these illusions in ways which prompt the question “what exactly am I looking at?” She makes us pay attention to places we would normally ignore, like store fronts, wood shops and laundry rooms. In the process bringing us into a one on one confrontation with our sense of sight.
Caves evoke primordial feelings. In our globalized culture they seem to suggest looking for a home in a world full of anonymous locations. Secret and safe places, caves also point towards introspection – an unknown location where you can think your deepest, most private thoughts. Noah Becker uses caverns in his recent work to set the stage for both the social and private. In some paintings people to play and socialize and in others people are withdrawn into thought.
Don Porcella is best known for his awesome figurative sculptures made using pipe cleaners. He also makes very tactile and colorful paintings. I love how the flatness of a messy drip painting can transform into the immensity of a sky which is back-dropping a space opera on an alien planet. Check out Don’s blog for updates and shows, he’s been in a bunch of cool shows over the last couple of months.
Nestled around a fire, inside a cozy cave, the first painter picked up some charcoal and drew a Mastodon. The Cave is also the place where Plato described the world unenlightened people view as “shadows of the images the fire throws” against the back wall. Courbet painted his cavern, The Source of the Loue, with an oarsman like the mythical Charon, ferrying people across the river Styx for a coin. Caves are mysterious places, tied into our deepest roots: metaphors for our experiences, fears, and knowledge. Melissa Brown, who we did a studio visit with a few months ago, has been working with an interesting group of printmakers at Random Number. She has a new silkscreen out – Cave View. Check, it, out.