The Paintings of Marianne Gagnier

 

Marianne Gagnier at the Painting Center

January 28 – February 22

two-person exhibition in the Main Gallery with Suzanne Laura Kammin,

Ro Lohin in the Project Room

Night Window

The paintings of Marianne Gagnier are abstract and can be called abstractions. They are, however, abstractions of the earth. Their essence is terrestrial. Field and ground is where they take place, and they are about how we revel in this world.

Many of the paintings are in fact begun out of doors, on actual ground, in actual field. Wind waving leaf filled branches above, the ever-changing light and shade, cloud and sun and birds are the surround. The field is activated by color seized from sensations in nature, the ground is held by form, arrived at through a natural process of chance operations, that organize into an organic whole, each time wholly new and unlike any other. Each painting is the result of a particular, one-time only set of conditions. They are pulled and coaxed, in an extensive engagement with mind and materials.

The tension is that this process acknowledges, that in this world, control is an illusion, yet will, combined with intelligence, examined experience, and emotional clarity, can recognize and fix precise relationships of color and form. There is completeness in this work. It includes both the course bray of the blue jay and the crisp lyric whistling of the oriole.

There are moments in life, if we have prepared for them, infrequent and hard won, when we experience both peace and exhilaration; when we see and feel the world in its completeness and complexity, we are part of it, and the world is fine as it is. The paintings of Marianne Gagnier are insights into these moments. They honor the world as it is.

KIm Sloane january 2013

See Sideshow Nation Post below!

Paul Resika: Walking in Your Own Landscape

Two new posts- Paul Resika and Sideshow Nation – click on right under recent posts

 

Paul Resika 8+8

Painting from Eight Decades, two gallery exhibition

Stephen Harvey Fine Arts Projects

Lori Bookstein Gallery

January 6- February 10 2013

Blaze Paul Resika  2010-2012

“Then there is a time in life when you just take a walk, and you walk in your own landscape.”

Willem de Kooning[1]

This beautiful sentiment of DeKooning, like his paintings, is meaningful in all its parts. He describes what is the Promised Land for painters, something we all immediately understand, but few actually achieve. It is something like a mystical union that comes only after intense preparation, long waiting, and the ability to see with the “clear light that comes from contemplation.”[2] The union for the painter occurs, not necessarily with the divinity, but when the vision, the materials, the process, forms and space come together with a freedom, directness and clarity that transcends all individual parts and is felt only as experience, as expression, and as emotion.

The time in life DeKooning speaks of is that time when the struggles of youth are overcome and experience has focused the vision. Paul Resika, like DeKooning, is blessed with a long painting life. In concurrent exhibitions at Steven Harvey Fine Arts Projects and Lori Bookstein Gallery we are privileged to see examples of Resika’s work from eight decades, dating back to 1947.  At the two shows we can watch the intense preparation unfold and partake in what has been the long contemplation of the artist.

The pictures are expertly chosen by Harvey and highlight different periods of Resika’s career.  They do not, however, completely prepare us for the new work at Lori Bookstein. Walking into this space and we are bowled over by large, vibrant, radiant, pictures different in scale and intensity from any of the previous work. He is able to surprise, always curious, always seeking the new.

Paul Resika’s preparation began when he was very young has continued non- stop up to the present. He studied with Hans Hofmann at the age of eighteen and his education has been constant conversation and companionship with the best artists of his generation, as well as the penetrating dialogue he has maintained with the artists of past.  The museums and galleries of New York are extensions of his working space, visited for lessons, love and inspiration. As important for Resika is the considerable efforts he makes to visit the shows and studios of younger artists.  He learns and draws energy from the art of all ages.

Both his practice and the contemplation begin seriously, I think, with Hofmann. Hofmann taught students to look to nature, not in order to reproduce a likeness, but to transform the rhythms one discovers into pictorial language. It is abstraction, not in the sense of being non- objective, but in the sense of extraction of essentials. The language is that of line, color, and form. Through the decades we see that Resika has always worked this territory.

His relationship with the world of appearances shifts, sometimes closer, sometimes attenuated past immediate recognition, but he is always in this world of abstraction and language. This is what, I suspect, he looks for in the museums and galleries; how this abstract language, learned with Hofmann, is found in the art of all ages.

The effect, or power, of this abstraction, this mastery of the language, is that every part of the painting is elevated to a symbol. Every element lives as both itself, as paint, and as metaphor. The disc can be a vibrant red circle, placed on the picture plane amongst other forms, alive as a participant in the choreography of composition, but it is also seen is also the sign of a setting sun. What is being examined, what Resika has long contemplated, is the nature of abstraction, and conversely, the abstraction of nature. For the artist it is the many ways visual rhymes can be wrought that makes the correspondence.

The poetry of painting is realizing these equivocations that can give rich multiple reading to the art. Such duality, and the artist’s awareness of them, is inherent in titles, particularly in the later paintings.  Two pictures are called  “Bright Night”. One from 1996 in the Harvey show, the second  dated 2012 at Lori Bookstein. The seeming contradiction is belied, or resolved by the paintings, where it is understood that in painting, it is contrast that creates light. The orange pink boats glow against the dark background like the salmon steaks in a Goya still life.  In other titles the awareness of metaphor is also apparent. In “Dancing” the rhythm of line is found, and “Pond Galaxy” the rhyme of form, and everywhere, spatial movement through rhythms of color.

The title of a later painting is “Night Song”. This recalls the name of two of Schubert’s great lieders, set to the poetry of Goethe, Wayfarer’s Night Song, 1 and 2.  I do not know if the artist intended this, but there are lovely correspondences here. For Schubert poetry was paramount, and he set his songs to verses that conjure the flora, fauna, and experience of the natural world. The abstraction of music, its language, was used to evoke the rippling brook under the night sky. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the great interpreter of these songs, stressed the rhythms above all in the music. Likewise, Paul Resika has mastered rhythms, and through the abstract language of painting, evokes an essential experience of the natural world. Fischer-Dieskau was lauded for his art being comprised of equal parts intelligence, deep knowledge of his medium, and emotion. The same can be said for Paul Resika whose long study and intense preparation has payed off. In the work it Lori Bookstein it can truly be said that his time has come, and he, like the wayfarer singing in the night, is walking in his own landscape.

Night Song Paul Resika 2012

“Nature and art seem to shun each other, but before one realizes it, they have found each other again”

Goethe

Kim Sloane 1/2013


[1] Strokes of Genius: de Kooning on de Kooning (DVD)

Filmmaker: Charlotte Zwerin for Cort Productions

 

[2] Plotinus, Enneads-Hadot, Pierre. Plotinus of The Simplicity of Vision (Chicago: The University of

Chicago Press, 1993) p. 65

Thanks to my wife, Marianne Gagnier, who read to me a quote by Fischer-Dieskau while I was contemplating this piece.

Sideshow Nation

Link

CHECK OUT: http://www.sideshowgallery.com/now/

SIDE SHOW NATION II – AT THE ALAMO

JANUARY 4- MARCH 3

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“Sideshow Nation”

Sideshow Gallery

319 Bedford Ave

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Now until March 3rd

 

“One Nation under Glass”

Steve Gerberich

 

 

Every so often what is called the sideshow, like a chrome heart shining in the sun, can eclipse the main event. Such is the case right now at Sideshow Gallery in Williamsburg, where some 480 artists currently have work on view in the exhibition “Sideshow Nation”. This is not the first time it has happened. In fact, every year for the past thirteen or so years, this event has taken place, though the number of participants has grown each year. If you haven’t seen, you haven’t lived. Get yourself down to 319 Bedford Ave between now and March 3rd.

This annual event is not strictly speaking curated, nor is it an open call. It cannot even be properly called a group show. It is is a coming together, a gathering of the tribe, a celebration of a community whose members are citizens of this great nation, the Sideshow Nation.

Artists of all kinds and all ages are here. There are artists who have had career retrospectives at European museums, who have graced the covers of art magazines for the last four decades, artists who may now be on these covers, and surely artists who will be.  There artists for whom this may be their only opportunity to show, and artists everywhere in between. There is one artist who has work on the moon.  The only requirement of citizenry in this nation is to be one of those for whom the madness of creating art is as much a necessity as eating, breathing, and making love.

At Sideshow there are stars, but stars only in the sense that the Milky Way is a made up of many individual stars. While each one crucial to its magnitude and glory, it is the galaxy itself that impresses. Scanning the walls at sideshow is like gazing at the Milky Way on a clear night, different stars catch our eye at each pass, brilliances ebb and flow at each scan. So it is with the art on the walls in the gallery, each time we look, different works catch our attention, for different qualities, and while these individuals shine in turn, we always returnto the power of the radiating, cumulative energy of the totality, an energy that like that of all galaxies, is relentlessly expanding, vibrating and uniting with the larger cosmic tapestry, it is a universe within a greater multi-verse, that like art itself suggests the infinite, and gives purpose, vibrancy, and spirit to our existence.

Part of this purpose, this spirit is the great premise of the show: that everyone deserves chance. At least once a year, everyone gets his or her place on the wall. All are accepted and hung with both equality and respect.

And while each person and each work is treated with the same respect, what holds all this energy together, its cosmic glue and animating force, is the hanging of the walls. It is all about the wall. When the hanging begins, the inclusive and democratic nature of the premise gives way.  In the placement of the work, there is only one decider, one positive charge, and it is the vision of Richard Timperio, the man behind this great event and Sideshow gallery.

Each wall is hung with the utmost care.  All the work is first laid out on the floor. Typically, one piece will go up on wall that will suggest a set of relationships that will begin this delicate and deliberate process of the hang. Work will be taken down, moved, rearranged any number of times until the balance is just right. Often the original starting piece will go, and an entirely new premise and configuration for the wall will take shape. There is a tolerance of a half to quarter inch, as pieces move and shift, left, right, up and down.  All eight walls are begun simultaneously.  The development is gradual and organic. There is a dedicated crew of volunteers to help with the work of hanging, most of whom are professional art handlers whose day jobs are in New York’s museums and galleries.  There may be three ladders working at once, pictures going up, coming down, with Timperio moving constantly between them giving directives.Meanwhile, still others work to compile the inventory and price list, which is a masterpiece in itself.

There is work in every size, shape, and medium that you could imagine, and many you would not think of in your wildest dreams. Timperio patiently attends to every artist to make certain their work is correctly installed, often taking the considerable time to invent processes and mechanisms for installation on the spot.

The result is magnificent. A good part of this magnificence is the amount of work and its quality, but equally powerful is the spirit that pervades the space. The exhibition at Sideshow is something more than a labor of love. It is the expression of a belief; it is a profound humanitarian statement. It is a celebration that says, come together, we are all one, at least once a year, in Sideshow Nation. It is both for those who create, and those who appreciate and love art. Every one takes part; everyone makes it happen, we all need each other.

So, to all the artists who participate, to all who come to be amazed, to the ethos of the Sideshow nation, and to the guiding spirit of this great nation, Richard Timperio, I say, and I am sure I speak for many others, long may you run!

Kim Sloane 1/2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paintings of Jan Muller- Lori Bookstein Gallery May 3-June 23

The Painting of Jan Muller

Kim Sloane

June 2012

Walpurgisnacht – Faust II 1956 oil on canvas, 82 x 120

Only a few weeks remain for the exhibition of painting by Jan Muller at the Lori Bookstein gallery (May 3-June 23, 138 Tenth Avenue NY, NY). The gallery has brought together three large canvases, one from the Whitney and one from MOMA, and one from a private collection, that form a spectacular trilogy. Many other pictures round out to the show, and entering the back room is like entering a chapel.

If you have not yet been I urge you to go. I cannot recall a show which has so affected and been so discussed by so many artists of all ages and of all persuasions. Why should this be so?

The painting of Jan Muller is painting at its most moving. It comes to us directly, through the simplest of signs. Emotion and message are communicated without mediation of any kind, with a minimum of artifice, of rhetoric, or conventional design. These signs are at once paint and image, four-inch stroke of cadmium red is a mouth, a black ovoid is an eye – convincing, absolutely.

The imagery also leads this simultaneous double life. What is fantastic and what is of our world exist side-by-side, equally real and provocative. This is the true province of painting, and its poetry. It is a fiction that convinces, becomes real, through the transformation of the physicality of the medium into pure feeling. What is invisible becomes visible, what is inside, comes out, what is immaterial is given concrete form, and vision in the largest and most expansive sense can be expressed.

To achieve this so directly at such a young age is miraculous. But Muller lived a quickened life. His life and his work recall these lines in Yeats great poem Byzantium[1], as they also recall Byzantine imagery:

“Before me floats an image, man or shade,

Shade more than man, more image than shade;

For Hades bobbin bound in mummy-cloth

May unwind the winding path:

A mouth that has not moisture and no breath

Breathless mouths may summon;

I hail the super human;

I call it death in life and life in death”

The fluctuation between image, man and shade (or, in the case of Muller witch or vision) is precisely the experience we have in front of the three great canvases; precisely the kind equivocal sensations that painting can realize. Yeats speaks of the superhuman and of Hades, which is an analogue to Muller’s Faustian imagery. But also to the point is the evocation of simultaneity of death in life and life in death, or the actuality of a hell of earth. This is what Saint Anthony, the subject of one of Muller’s large canvases, experienced in his visions, and what was a reality for Muller. Muller’s parents were incarcerated in concentration camps, they managed to be released, and the family fled, moving through Europe, ending in a refugee camp in France. Muller’s heart was weakened by the travails of this existence. He made it to New York in 1941. He died in 1958, at the age of thirty-six. [2]

Temptation of Saint Anthony, oil on canvas 80x 121 1957 Whitney Museum

What makes the work so powerful is that this struggle between these forces of death, or of the devil, and life, are so keenly felt. The act of painting, of making art, is where this struggle occurs. And in what is perhaps the privilege of the survivor, a profound understanding of the human condition allows an expression to unfold before our eye that lights up darkest corners of our souls. The resolution of the painting becomes redemption.

A touchstone, both formally and thematically is the Eisenhiem Altarpiece.In the exhibition we have the three larges canvases, linked in spirit, but also triptychs, and works with multiple images connected vertically. This multi-panel painting was of course common practice in Northern Renaissance painting. It allows for an expansion of narrative, as different stories, or different aspects of a single story may be told on separate panels and seen sequentially. The Eisenhiem Altarpiece both slides and unfolds to reveal its series of remarkable images. It adds the element of time, acknowledging perhaps that the story to be told needs time to be effectively communicated, and also to be properly absorbed. Indeed, the message and objectives of the Eisenhiem may be the most ambitious work in the history of art. Muller, I think shares this ambition.

The painting was commissioned for, and situated in, a plague hospice at a time when the disease was thought to be the result of an incomplete or lapsed faith. The power of Grunewald’s imagery and the grand ambition of the painting was to restore faith, and through this restoration, to actually effect a cure. In order to achieve this, Grunewald rallied all the powers a painter can possess.

Muller understood and was able to marshal many of these powers. It is of great interest that after coming to this country he spent five years studying with Hans Hofmann. This is not an insignificant amount of time. We do not see in these works the cubist derived structures we associate with many of the Hofmann students, so what did he get from his fellow expatriate teacher?

Surely, he practiced the methodologies of pictorial and spatial structures that Hoffman emphasized. For Muller, however well understood these lessons may have been, they do not become ends in themselves. They are tools, tools at the service of his expression. The emotion is primary. We see in his work a very sophisticated knowledge of pictorial forces, of tension on the picture plane, of movements across the surface, and of color intervals perfectly pitched. But, all is restrained; never do the formal qualities call attention to themselves as subject. From his study with Hofmann I would speculate that he internalized the lessons, gained a mastery and confidence, in such a way as to achieve the great freedom to simply express. Though direct, these works are in no way either “casual” or “provisional”.[3]

And just as surely he learned the structural inner workings of the great painting of the past, which Hofmann also demonstrated to his students.

From Grunewald he takes the dark backgrounds that give a mystical luminosity to his colors. He knows that compliments of close value on this background will vibrate with heightened intensity. And perhaps most beautifully, he knows that to heighten the whites, one prismatically overlays a range of hues. Look at the angel’s dress in the Concert of Angels panel of the Isenheim to see the spectrum of hues giving light to the white. The same can be seen in the figures in Muller’s Walpursnacht- Faust II, 1956 (among others). Martica Sawin notes in her essay the pointing finger of the Devil in Walpursnacht- Faust I recalls that of Saint John the Baptist in the Eisenheim Crucifixion panel.[4]

The restoration of faith is I think the ambition these two artists share. We may locate our faith in many places. It is surely a great pleasure of this exhibition that one’s faith in painting as a medium that can touch with its own particular powers, as no other can, is gloriously restored.

Walpurgisnacht – Faust I 1956 oil on canvas, 82 x 120,Museum of Modern Art


[1] W.B Yeats, The Winding Stair and Other Poems,  Scribner ISBN978-1-4165-8992-1

[2] see online catalogue for the exhibition, with essay by Martica Sawin, originally published in Arts, volume 33, Feb.1959: http://www.pagegangster.com//p/cSDPg/#/page/5

[3] See Raphael Rubenstein, Art in America 5/4/09 “Provisional Painting” : http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/features/provisional-painting-raphael-rubinstein/  Also, part II

[4] Ibid 2