When I met Dan Attoe we were both starting the MFA program at the University of Iowa. I’ve known him for eight years now, and even though Dan lives in Washington State and I live in New York we have maintained our friendship through collaborations, especially with the art group Paintallica.
While at school we became friends – I’ve noticed Dan sort of collects weirdos like me. Before coming to grad school Dan had created a studio practice that involved making a painting a day, and was already working on paintings that have a relationship to his current work. While in school Dan wasn’t stuck on some notion of an ideal practice, he just worked while everyone else was talking about how to work, he wasn’t terribly concerned with theories; he has a background in psychology and knew to trust his own creative faculties.
While everyone else was screwing around with their identities, Dan had already settled into a kind of self-knowledge. I don’t know if his gnosis came from growing up in the deep woods with a forest ranger for a father, or from one of the experiences he had growing up that caused him to study psychology and art.
Being alive you meet a lot of bull shitters and have to play a lot of stupid games, but rarely do you meet someone as genuine and considerate as Dan.
Alexi Worth’s playful paintings have an on-again-off-again relationship with photography, illustration, and art history. The above painting is titled “The Formalists,” and it’s a very formal painting. On one hand the composition is geometric, and on the other the people are wearing black-tie, on the third hand they’re about to get intimate. Is it me or are those panties like a black hole?
Combine the variety of Hieronymus Bosch and the weirdness of David Lynch; add a pinch of skateboarding and two d-cups of death metal and you’ve got a good recipe for taking in Dan Attoe’s newest painting, “Accretion 40.” Placing multiple small scenes over an end-of-days landscape, he touches on everything from a drawing monkey (self-portrait?), to strippers, Christmas, and going to Hell. Dan put the finishing touches on this yesterday, and he’s about to move and have a kid, so this is going to be the last big painting for a little while.
The characters in Theis Wendt’s paintings are looking for something. Taking place at night, his explorers throw ghostly beams from flashlights. What are they looking for? Houses radiate from secret sources. Giant boats rake the coastline with spotlights. The subject seems to be a philosophical kind of looking, and reminded me of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumm album cover.
Peter Cross makes pencil drawings to salivate over, precise and delicate, they bear witness with photographic verisimilitude to times and places that have never existed but seem weirdly deja-vu-ish. Cross worked for over twenty years as an art handler and then as a registrar in Manhattan galleries. Much of that time was spent with Leo Castelli, where he worked with artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenburg and Roy Lichtenstein. When I first got to NYC Peter hired me to install shows, and despite my being nosy and persistent, has always been extremely secretive about his drawings. I finally got him to email these. Peter doesn’t have a website just yet, so if you want to contact him – leave some way to be reached in the comments section.
One of the highlights for me during the last couple months was hearing Michael Anderson shut down a pessimistic discussion about “no new types of painting.” His booming voice broke the ennui in the room with: “The future is really enormous and there must be at least 9 million new kinds of painting to be made.” Michael is optimistic, and his art is too. He was cool enough to let us into his studio, the Harlem Collage Shop, to check out what he is up to. Using street posters and billboards gathered in NYC and other major cities around the world, Anderson makes super-sized collages, commonly 8 x 8 feet and up. He collects the posters at night, which seems like a dangerous thing to do, but he’s a big guy and didn’t seem to give a shit, just citing his birthplace as the Bronx.
Ben Grasso is wired for telekinesis. Before painting he warms up, surrounded by mystic runes and burning incense, by bending spoons with his mind. Just kidding, but that is what I want to believe. His paintings are filled with magical forces; it’s to do with buildings and de/construction, but there are other characters – namely beer cans, explosions, and scarecrows. It’s entertaining to be presented with something walking the fine line between real and totally illusory, Grasso is making work in that sweet spot.