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.
When first seeing Brendan Cass’s paintings, you’ll know you are looking at the work of someone who is very free. Color swoops across huge surfaces, tenuously resolving itself into luminous landscapes. When I dropped by his studio he was freshly back from a trip to Spain. Brendan was laughing in this pic because Bebe, his cat, kept running in front of the camera.
Aaron Johnson’s sunny Brooklyn studio is full of riotous, colorfully undulating, larger-than-life monsters. He’s getting ready for a show that opens next week. Luckily, he had some paintings in progress so we can see how he puts his paint on. Known for making paintings that are both incredibly gorgeous and politically aggressive, Johnson continues to develop and has upped the ante with his new work. Now he’s including Old-Master appropriations, political satire, religious abominations, gender-benders, and personal references, all played out in monstrous iconography.