at The Painting Center

It would be hard to imagine three artists who are more simpatico and yet distinct. Emily Berger, Claire Seidl and Mark Wethli are presenting an exhibition of recent work at The Painting Center through April 19, 2014. Berger and Seidl occupy the main space, with their works mingling together, and Wethli occupies the project space in the back. The intimacy of the Painting Center space is perfectly suited to the modest scale and subtle materiality of the works in this show.

The three artists are unified by their discerning approaches to materials, and by the understated nature and expansive implications of their respective programs. Each in her/his own way creates what Agnes Martin referred to as a "plane of awareness' -- an undifferentiated space in which the formal and material elements of the work coalesce, inviting us to a heightened attention to our own place in the world.

Emily Berger & Claire Seidl, installation view, The Painting Center (image from gallery website)

Emily Berger works in oil on wood panels, creating gently modulating striated spaces. Her surfaces are worked and scraped to form vertical fissures and textures that subtly intersect the sweeping horizontal gestures. Employing close-valued grays, browns, blacks, the graceful curves form an intuitive natural rhythm and a slightly volumetric translucence, pulling the viewer into a world of constantly shifting sensation. More on her work HERE.

 Emily Berger, Untitled, 2013, 24 x 20 inches, oil on wood panel (image from artist's website)

Emily Berger, Untitled, 2013, 26 x 22 inches, oil on wood panel (image from artist's website) 

Emily Berger, Untitled, 2014, 24 x 20 inches, oil on wood panel (image from artist's website)

Claire Seidl works in oil on nubby linen with a kind of all-over compositional approach. The deep saturation of her color is elaborated by the deep sensuality of her material, as the luscious oil is massaged, scraped and pressed into the linen creating a pervasive tension between surface and color. Her configurations evolve out of this process -- organic amalgams of lines and shapes that vibrate and absorb into the resonance of the whole.

Claire Seidl, On the Up and Up, 2013, 54 x 42 inches, oil on linen (image from artist's website) 

Claire Seidl, The Likes of Me, 2013, 54 x 42 inches, oil on linen (image from artist's website) 

Claire Seidl, In a Heartbeat, 2013, 20 x 14 inches, oil on linen (image from artist's website)

Mark Wethli's group of small works on paper begin, as do his larger paintings, with an activated ground -- in this case, a delicate grid of woven paper. Working with the saturated hues and matte surface of Flashé paint, he responds to the grid and the edges of the paper to locate groups of lines and rectangles in deceptively simple dialogues. Each piece contains some little surprise -- a slightly skewed angle, an oddly offset shape -- tiny slippages that pull us in and remind us of the endless possibilities before us, and the contingent nature reality. More on his work HERE.

Mark Wethli, Alloy, 2014, 10 x 8 inches, Flashé on woven Jaipur paper (image from artist's website)

Mark Wethli, Ticket to Cologne, 2014, 10 x 8 inches, Flashé on woven Jaipur paper (image from artist's website)

 Mark Wethli, Jing-a-Ling-a-Ling, 2014, 10 x 8 inches, Flashé on woven Jaipur paper (image from artist's website) 


The Altered Landscape

From my catalogue essay for the exhibition The Altered Landscape at 499 Park Avenue Gallery, New York City, 2009:

I’m seeing a psychiatrist, my shrink. We’re trying to save the future by looking at the past, she tells me. So things can be different, so the future won’t be just like the past…so far things look like they’re going to turn out pretty much the same.
                                                                                  Vernon Fisher,” Future Tense”

In primal cultures, the psychological well being of the tribe depended on their ability to live in total integration with the natural environment, to achieve a sustained balance between give and take, and an acceptance of the inherent uncertainty of their existence. It was the job of the shaman, the tribal shrink, to constantly monitor that balance, to preserve ancestral knowledge, to be able to penetrate the veneer of day-to-day reality to discern relations and disintegrations that were invisible or inaccessible to the other members of the society. Using ritual devices including images, movement and incantations, the shamans created embodiments of natural forces that helped their people achieve a deeper sense of their place as an integral part of the whole, and to live in accordance with that realization. It is safe to say that this was not an easy job, as human psychology has proven to be fundamentally unable to embrace the vast uncertainty of natural flux. Indeed the entire history of humanity might be seen as an epic existential struggle -- a constant battle to overcome our vulnerability by gaining dominance over elements that ultimately sustain us, supplanting natural systems with technological “improvements” while ignoring the slippages that point to the possibility that our dominance might be a finite illusion...  continue reading HERE

David Maisel, Lake Project 20, 48 x 48 inches, color photograph (image from the artist's website)


In the Studio

Steven Alexander, 2014, as yet untitled, 32 x 24 inches each


DANIEL LEVINE at Churner & Churner

 Daniel Levine, installation at Churner & Churner, 2014

Daniel Levine is presenting an exhibition of recent paintings at Churner  & Churner in Chelsea through February 22, 2014. The nineteen "white" paintings in this beautiful show operate at the epicenter of painting, inviting the viewer's attention toward the fundamental elements - color, material, support. Within this focused zone, one is immediately drawn, not to the sameness of the works, but to a deep examination of the differences from one painting to the next. Varying in size from 9 inches to 66 inches, and in color from cool gray to pale yellow, the monochromes all have a thin border of raw cotton accentuating the specific colors, densities and viscosities of the painted surfaces. Some surfaces are thin and delicate, others more juicy and worked, but each individual painting has its own distinct identity and presence. The installation orchestrates our experience to full effect, revealing the sensuality, the elegance, and the courage of Levine's endeavor.

Daniel Levine, Untitled #3, 2012, 13 7/8 x 13 3/4 inches, oil on cotton

Daniel Levine, Dalton, 2012-13, 18 x 17 3/4 inches, oil on cotton

Daniel Levine, Tupelo, 2012, 66 x 65 1/2 inches, oil on cotton

Images from the gallery website


Abstract Painting in Philadelphia

Here are just a few of the many terrific abstract painters working in Philadelphia, where direct painting thrives, and notions of irony or strategy are not in the premise. 

Images from the artists' websites



Steven Alexander, 2013, installation view, David Findlay Jr Gallery, NYC



Some Memorable Shows from 2013

Suzanne Caporael at Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe (image from gallery website)

Gene Davis at Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe (image from gallery website)

De Kooning at Gagosian (image from gallery website)

Jim Dine at Pace

Logan Grider at David Findlay Jr (image from gallery website)

John Grillo at David Findlay Jr

Mara Held at Gary Snyder

Roni Horn at Hauser & Wirth (image from gallery website)

Gonçalo Ivo at Paulo Darzé, Bahia, Brazil (image courtesy the artist)

Shirley Jaffe at Tibor De Nagy

Brice Marden "Graphite Drawings" at Matthew Marks (image from gallery website)

Lloyd Martin at Stephen Haller (image from gallery website)

Doug Ohlson at Washburn (image from gallery website)

Steve Roden at CRG (image from gallery website)

Rothko "Black Paintings" at the Menil

Thornton Willis at Elizabeth Harris

Douglas Witmer at Blank Space

John Zurier at Peter Blum (image from gallery website)


In the Studio

Steven Alexander, Tracer #1, 2013, 36 x 32 inches, acrylic on canvas


JOHN GRILLO at David Findlay Jr

John Grillo, Untitled A, 1946, 19 1/2 x 20 inches, oil on canvas

In the years immediately after WW II, American painters grappling with the difficulty of finding a distinctly American path, adapted and extended the implications of cubism and surrealism, to achieve a new hybrid perpetuation of the language. In New York, Pollock loaded his quasi-figurative totemic compositions with Jungian references and symbols, DeKooning worked his way beyond cubism through Gorky in paintings like Pink Angels (1945). At the same time in San Francisco, John Grillo was experimenting with automatism, and creating luscious energetic painterly abstractions that helped point the way for a generation of West Coast painters. Grillo, now 97, hasn't received the notoriety of some of his New York contemporaries, but the paintings in this exhibition (which just closed at the David Findlay Jr Gallery) including 20 works from the mid '40s to the early '60s reveal the depth and clarity of his lively sensibility, and the substance of his contribution. Grillo's inventiveness is manifested in surprising poetic explorations that are freewheeling, fresh, and utterly without pretense. His paintings carve out and hold their own humble, playful, vital place in the rich history of postwar abstraction.

John Grillo, Untitled C, 1946, 72 x 23 1/2 inches, oil on canvas

John Grillo, Untitled Abstraction (#4827), 1949, 20 x 20 inches, oil on canvas

John Grillo, Untitled 27, 1952, 14 x 25 inches, oil on canvas

John Grillo, Untitled 22, 1952, 49 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches, oil on canvas

John Grillo, Untitled 19, 1962, 50 x 63 3/4 inches, oil on canvas

Images from the gallery website