Filed under: NAP News, Noteworthy, Vote! | Tags: Alexandre Rosa, Benjamin Degen, Brenna Youngblood, Charley Alexander, Christopher Murphy, Gabriel Pionkowski, Joseph Peragine, Kent Dorn, Kristin Cammermeyer, Ron Buffington, Summer Wheat, Todd Chilton
Our final New American Paintings issue of the year is appearing on newsstands now. In each of the six 2012 issues, two artists were deemed “Noteworthy Picks” by our juror and editor. Now it’s your turn to choose whom among the twelve artists deserves the honor of winning our Reader’s Choice Annual Prize. That’s right, your online vote will decide!
In addition to being featured again in our June/July issue next year, the winner of the Reader’s Choice Annual Prize will receive a $500 Blick Art Materials gift certificate sponsored by:
Voting is open through January 11, 2013!
The winner of the Reader’s Choice will be announced by Friday, January 18th.
Before you vote, you can learn more about each artist after the jump. Artists are placed in random order on the voting tool upon page-load. Only one vote will be allowed per computer.
There is a group of artists – R. H. Quaytman and Nathan Hylden among them – who are actively opening up new territory for the medium of painting. The content of their work is so inextricably linked to its facture and history that general definitions such as “representational“ or “abstract” fall short; their approach is at once wholly nonobjective and rigorously pictorial. Charley Alexander’s paintings have a similar spirit. Using paint, stencils, and other materials, Alexander creates chaotic and undulating surfaces that both reveal and conceal a given work’s history.
The lines between painting and other media continue to blur, and traditional definitions of just what constitutes a “painting” seem more and more slippery, if not wholly irrelevant. These days, artists make paintings that act like sculpture, photographs that act like paintings, and videos that act like both. Gerhard Richter is often viewed as a key matchmaker in the union of the handmade and the photographic; indeed, his immense body of work is extraordinarily important when it comes to how we now view the activity of painting. Ron Buffington feels that his own engagement with the medium of photography is essential to his painting practice. His mixed-media works operate in an indeterminate space between the two media and make us question the boundaries of each.
Each time I look at one of Kristin Cammermeyer’s mixed-media constructions, I see something I hadn’t noticed before. As I prepared to write this paragraph, for example, I looked at images of her work once more and had the sensation that the works and the space they are in had been turned upside down. What I find most appealing about Cammermeyer’s constructions are their anthropomorphic qualities. Made with wood and other materials—of different lengths, widths, and thicknesses—Hangar nonetheless brings to mind the lithe body of a ballerina: it is physically strong yet evokes fragility and gracefulness. Held together by an unseen framework and supported by a single vertical beam that appears to just barely touch the floor, Hangar is enhanced by the natural light that comes from above to add dimensionality and luminosity.
Todd Chilton’s paintings are a visual manifestation of a collision between the ordered in the intuitive; in a sense, their content lies in the nebulous space bound by the two. While Chilton begins each painting with a predetermined pattern, that purposefulness quickly gives way to the process of painting and the vagaries of the hand. The result are paintings that vibrate both optically and structurally. This sense of unbalance not only activates the paintings, it underscores their physical relationship to the viewer.
The frivolity of Benjamin Degen’s work is not just visible in the representational narrative that plays out in his colorful scenes, but also in the playfulness with which he approaches formal issues, implied dimension and the resulting tension between pattern and abstraction. Faux bois bands of color are sewn back and forth across his compositions like stitches in a quilt, carrying with them a fresh aesthetic kinship with folk art. The formal inspection at play on the surface of these paintings is as much a character in Degen’s images as the kittenish nude subjects that cavort throughout them.
Kent Dorn’s paintings can be looked at as contemporary fête champêtre. Unlike the sun-bathed idylls produced by old masters such as Titian and Watteau, however, the mood that pervades Dorn’s work is one of uncertainty and dread. There is a direct correlation between the oblique narratives that Dorn imagines and the way in which he approaches each painting formally; the uncertainty felt by the inhabitants of his pastoral scenes mirrors what Dorn experiences in the act of painting.
Artists who choose realism as their mode of expression are too often relegated to the margins of the discourse surrounding contemporary art. These days, good old-fashioned painting chops take a back seat to innovation and conceptual rigor. Christopher Murphy makes a strong case as to why this view is myopic. Drawing from old family photographs for his source material, Murphy makes paintings that are anything but rote facsimiles of the images he selects. He imbues his pictures with a disquieting strangeness that comes from the combination of their banal source material, his subtle and carefully considered insertion of art-historical quotes, and his overall fluency with the medium.
The work of Joseph Peragine is puzzling, always seeming to come out of left field. His Nature Porn series includes paintings of polar bears and elk pictured in their native environments and others depicting animal decoys: the former group was inspired by nature dioramas while the latter refers to the artist’s local Bass Pro shop. However, the artificial appearance of Peragine’s imagery has less to do with these sources than with his use of materials, which invites scrutiny and creates a distance between the subject and content of his work. Fundamentally, these works are about painting and its elasticity: like the great Joe Zucker, Peragine throws his audience off with compelling tales that provide a pretext for an endlessly curious and inventive artistic practice.
Gabriel Pionkowski’s work makes a powerful first impression that intensifies with time. He painstakingly and purposefully deconstructs readymade canvases, thread-by-thread, handpainting each individual strand, and then re-weaves the strands on a traditional loom into bold, intelligent abstractions that drape and fold in ways that reveal the stretcher support and hanging devices beneath the surface. These works satisfyingly interrogate the collapsed realms of painting and sculpture, further exploring unfinished queries that began with minimalism, post minimalism, and “eccentric abstraction.” His disciplined “painting” process is an intellectual device that allows him to investigate a space that he describes as “the void”—“a depth of plane articulated through the space between front and back, inner and outer, visible and invisible.”
I have selected Alexandre Rosa primarily for the extraordinary strangeness of his artistic endeavor, one that shocked me when I first encountered his works in a show at Houston’s Peel Gallery and continues to surprise me whenever and wherever I encounter them. Rosa’s Lilliputian encased museums with their delicate surreal drawings on shrunken easels under glass trigger cinematic narratives in me. His drawn iconography is fantastically hallucinatory, with bits missing, obeying some visual dream logic. After thirty-five years of compulsive art viewing, it’s a great joy for me to be able to say, “I have never seen anything quite like that before.”
The sudden rise of zombie popularity (see AMC’s television series The Walking Dead as a case in point), following the wave of vampire books, movies, and TV shows, one could say, has some nice parallels to our workaday lives. The onslaught of mindless droves of flesh eaters—enemies that die with a single blast—can be and has been allegorized as our daily onslaught of mindless information—email, facebook updates, twitter feeds, you name it. In Summer Wheat‘s thick, sculptural paintings, Wheat seems to combat this digital fatigue with the best remedy of all—the messy, bright materiality of paint.
Brenna Youngblood’s paintings function like visual poems that bring to mind Magritte’s realistic surrealism. Seemingly quiet and succinct, Youngblood’s paintings reveal their content in a measured and paced fashion. Just as suggestive verses can open up a world of emotions with few words, works by Youngblood slowly unfold, their tactile qualities and recognizable collaged images prompting psychological journeys and ethereal visions. Her work has been described as bridging the historical, biographical, and the imaginary to construct (and question) issues of identity and difference.
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