Categorized | Reviews

2010: Rear View Mirror

 

Here, in reverse chronological order, are some of the strongest shows Squarecylinder covered in the past year. Note: This recap is not inclusive, comprehensive or even remotely fair. In fact, the list of worthy artists that we didn’t have time to cover is longer than the list of those we did.  Among the regrets, I’m thinking in particular of the photographer Nina Zurier whose large-scale (10-foot-long) images shot from moving trains come as close to being cinematic as any still photographs you are likely to see; of Clare Rojas, whose mock-erotic pictures fiendishly subvert the conventions of Indian miniatures; of the tech-heavy Zero One festival in San Jose; and of the masterful and always ambitious canvases of veteran Bay Area painter Christopher Brown. Unfinished business aside, I’m hoping this look back at 2010 – our second year of covering Northern California art — proves Squarecylinder to be worthy of your attention in the year ahead.

Ian Harvey/Koo Yoo @ JAYJAY. For Ian Harvey and his wife Koo Kyung Sook, collaboration is about wresting order out of manufactured chaos.  Harvey specializes in process-oriented abstract paintings that look like time-lapse images of geological events; Koo creates imprints of her body on emulsion-coated photo paper, along with sculptures made of organic matter that address gender issues specific to Korea, her birthplace.  In their collaborative works, the artists fuse both sensibilities in wall-sized montages that are as much about virtuoso paint handling as they are about the human condition.  Read the full story…

Marcus Linnenbrink @ Patricia Sweetow. Marcel Duchamp predicted that “retinal art” would vanish, and that ideas, stripped of sensuality, would someday rule.  His prognostication certainly came true in conceptual art. But for rest of the world, including that of the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist Markus Linnenbrink, the notion doesn’t hold. For Linnenbrink, color isn’t just a means; it’s a riotous end that will likely transfix anyone whose taste runs toward finish fetish and abstraction.  For material inventiveness, I can’t think of a show I’ve seen in recent years, that tops this. Read the full story…

 
Luc Tuymans @ SFMOMA.   Belgian painter Luc Tuymans has breathed new energy into painting by pretending to drain the life out of it.  His paintings, which are short on information, long on implication, parade their emptiness.  But they also pack a punch.  Like a postmodern Marlow, Tuymans plies the river of civilization’s discontents. He’s armed with a paintbrush, but not much hope for humanity. Tuymans is a history painter.  His paintings of the Holocaust, Flemish nationalism, Belgian colonialism and post-9/11 America are based on photography, television, cinema, and to a lesser extent, on art history. But unlike the artist to which he is most often compared – Gerhard Richter — Tuymans filters his synthesis of art history through his experience of making movies.  Read the full story… 
 
Hung Liu @ Rena Bransten. Hung Liu’s latest cycle of paintings feels, at first, like a departure.  But is it? People are absent, and so is her usual narrative structure.  But like the elegiac, rivulet-stained oil paintings of nineteenth century and pre-Revolutionary women that, for decades, she has been painting from period photos, these pictures carry a heavy load:  the weight of mortality. Liu grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and witnessed all kinds of suffering; but she has never, as far as I know, taken on mortality directly.  She does so here using animals as surrogates. Read the full story…
 
Raymond Saunders @ Stephen Wirtz. Raphael Rubinstein noted a trend in painting that emphasized works that looked improvised and unfinished. “Casual, dashed-off, tentative and self-canceling” were the terms he used to describe the work of Provisionalists such as Raoul DeKeyser and Michael Krebber, and these attributes were said to stand against the idea of masterpieces, even as they seemed firmly rooted in a synthesis of a now-classical Dada and Abstract Expressionism. Of course, for fans of Raymond Saunders’ work, Provisional Painting cannot be called new, because Saunders has been doing exactly that for the better part of four decades.  Full story…
 
Reed Anderson @ Gregory Lind. For a painter, Reed Anderson is pretty clever with razor blades.  His obsessive paper works, which are both additive and subtractive, are distinguished by thousands of small, geometrically shaped holes.  These appear in various guises: in hand-cut bits of the paper ground that are removed to form negative shapes; in pieces that are hand-painted and collaged; and in spray painted, stenciled shapes that appear on the same ground from which they were cut.  Yet despite all this evidence of manhandling, Anderson’s work is highly nuanced — marked more by the fine motor skills of craft, than by the gross flailing glorified by Pollock or de Kooning.  Full story…
 
Henry Wessel @ Rena Bransten. When the New Topographics exhibition appeared at the George Eastman House in 1975, it did not feel like a history-making event.  Ranging from bland to butt-ugly, the 168 images that comprised the show seemed destined for obscurity or worse.  That it upended the prevailing notions of fine art photography ranks as one of the greater ironies of art history, since few people saw the original show and even fewer saw its limited-run catalog.  Socially engaged photographers got it immediately.  Eager to engage with the actual circumstances of American life (as opposed to gilding its fading myths), they joined with a group of curators who wanted photography to be taken seriously as fine art.  Full story…
 
Exposed: Today’s Photography/Yesterday’s Technology @ SJICA. Looking at photography these days, it’s hard not to wonder if the medium hasn’t been drained of aesthetic value. For nearly two decades, big, banal, theory-driven pictures have occupied a disproportionate amount of space in galleries and museums. Yet despite this apparent hijacking, there’s a quiet counterinsurgency gathering force, composed of hundreds of photographers who are turning antiquated photographic methods to surprisingly contemporary ends. Meet the antiquarian avant-garde.  Full story…
 
Judy Pfaff @ Braunstein/Quay.  When it comes to manufacturing well-ordered chaos, nobody does it like Judy Pfaff. For more than a generation beginning in the late ‘70s, she has continuously reinvigorated sculpture by moving it into painterly, theatrical, performative and architectural directions.  Despite challenges from the likes of Petah Coyne, Jessica Stockholder, Sarah Sze and others, Pfaff remains the undisputed queen of the realm.  Her sprawling, room-sized constructions, which look like visions spewed from a kaleidoscope, are the unruliest and yet the most refined examples of stream-of-consciousness art making I can think of.  Full story…
 
Nellie King Solomon @ Brian Gross.  What would Robert Smithson have achieved if he’d used  brushes instead of boulders and earth?  For an approximate answer, check out Nellie King Solomon.  Solomon’s wall-sized acrylic-on-mylar paintings may lack the scale of Smithson’s pirouette in the Great Salt Lake, but her style of “flow painting” – developed over years of hard-won process experiments – achieves a similar impact: It transfixes us with simulations of things that appear natural and man-made – often all at once and in the same picture.  Full story…
 
The All-New Crocker Art Museum. Over the past two decades nearly every urban renewal idea hatched in Sacramento has failed.  Yet by operating above the fray of local politics (and, apparently, outside the black hole of post-crash economics) the Crocker, raised $100 million, hired Charles Gwathmey to build an architectural masterpiece, and convinced artists and collectors to part with some 4,000 works of art valued at between $25 and $50 million. The results are something to behold. Full story…
 
Ed Moses @ Brian Gross.  Is Ed Moses channeling Henri Rousseau? No, but it’s hard to suppress the thought given the menagerie of zebras, tigers, giraffes and other beasts that stare out at us from jungle foliage in the artist’s latest series, wic wack.  Jokes aside, a more pertinent question is whether California’s best-known abstract painter has made a shift toward allover paintings built from representational elements that appear half-camouflaged.  Full story…
 
Artist Profile: Robert Brady. From the beginning of his 35-year career, Brady, 64, has had a knack for scavenging and creatively re-purposing objects, ideas and experiences.  Whether scouring the desert outside Reno for remnants of broken tools and fragments of glass, reading about tribal art, traveling to foreign countries or sifting through the detritus of his Berkeley studio, Brady has always employed an archeologist’s instinct to help guide his explorations. Full story…
–DAVID M. ROTH
 
Photo collage: Raymond Saunders, Nellie King Solomon, Stephen Berkman, Ian Harvey/Koo Yoo, Vic Muniz, Marcus Linnenbrink.
 
 
 

 

 

2 Responses to “2010: Rear View Mirror”

  1. Craig:

    About Tuymans: I might have agreed with you had I not toured the exhibition with the artist. He really spun my head around and made me look at the work in a way I might not have done otherwise.

    Yes, it’s easy to write Tuymans off as “bad painting” or worse, anti-painting. But when seen through the prism of cinema (i.e. the practice of making really crude movies)and then painting the results, the work acquires new meaning. Call me soft in the head if you want, but sometimes you really DO have to suspend the usual standards by which you judge a work of art in order to appreciate it. Still, there WERE some truly masterful paintings — masterful in terms of composition and paint handling — that could not be denied. That said, it’s easy to see how you (or anyone, really) could dismiss Tuymans out-of-hand. He’s difficult to like.

  2. Craig Smith says:

    David,

    Always interesting to see different people’s year’s end list; can’t believe anyone EVER agrees with anyone else’s list. Yeah, too bad Chris’s show at Berggruen didn’t make the cut; easily a better show than several others that were listed.

    And David; Luc Tuymans is the worst painter in the history of the world to ever get rich and famous. Absolutely the emperor’s new clothes. On my worst day I could make a better painting than anything in that vacuous SF MoMA show.

    But all my opinions aside, I enjoy reading your reviews.

    Keep up the good work.

    Craig

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Vertical Slideshow


Email Subscription Request

You will receive a verification message once you submit this form.