New American Paintings/Blog

Museum Admission: José Lerma at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago by New American Paintings

Engaging all the melodrama and frivolity of commemorative portraiture, José Lerma’s most recent exhibition, currently on view at the MCA Chicago, challenges the long-since relevant historical relationship between social status and painting. Fitting the museum with a number of works ranging from painting, sculpture, and installation, Lerma combines the pomp and splendor of honorary gestures with the sharp and undercutting wit of his overly embellished, and stylized method. Beginning in the entrance, on either side of the main lobby, monumental-scaled paper portraits hint at parade floats – the two pieces entitled Marjorie Looks at Marianne and Marianne Looks at Marjorie, refer to the patrons each lounge was named after, though it would take a certain degree of rationalization to come upon those resemblances. The large inflatable masses of color have the effect of being weightless and full of air, though they lack a celebratory attitude. Made out of photographers’ backdrops, the theatrical material quality of the busts suggests a projected read over a definitive statement. Likewise, the faces are featureless and empty, and the smooth contours of the hollow paper shell are foregrounded as equally as the figures they suppose to represent – a sculpture bound to face itself indefinitely in a farcical tête-à-tête. – Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor

Installation view, BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: José Lerma, MCA Chicago, July 2 – December 3, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

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Ella Hatchet: Alex Chitty and Alice Tippit at Roots & Culture by New American Paintings
July 2, 2013, 8:30 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , ,

At once phonetic and ambiguous, the work in Ella Hatchet reflects the title – a collection of paintings, photographs, and sculptures by Alex Chitty and Alice Tippit that strike a mood, rather than a specific target. In fact, the symbol a target would be the antithesis of what this exhibition, currently on view at Roots & Culture, so beautifully achieves. Embracing the poetic potentials of form, color, and organization of everyday objects, Chitty and Tippit stage an anti-devotional relationship to domestic symbols indicative of art historical tropes, as much as midcentury style and design. Where the embellishment of myth intersects with the cool touch of a textbook, both artists take a critical, yet humorous stance on immediately recognizable symbols and modes of making – silhouette portraiture, the reclining nude, and marble sculpture, to name a few. In Ella Hatchet, a Classical approach to achieving the perfect form is met with the contemporary anxiety of purposeful mistranslation. Taking its cue from the pictorial language of painting and sculpture, as well as its signs/signifiers, this exhibition questions the state of an original object when interpreted into a new context – reveling in all the exciting slippages that occur when traditional systems of representation falter. ­– Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor

Work by Alex Chitty and Alice Tippit, from left: “Autonaut,” 2011, “Snap,” 2011, “Slow Death of a Namesake (Unit I),” 2013, and “Lake Aspect,” 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Roots & Culture.

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New Work From Kansas City at Carrie Secrist Gallery by New American Paintings

An effort to define “Midwestern Painting” has been a major topic of discussion lately – not a quite debate, but definitely an inquiry.  Carrie Secrist’s recent exhibition New Work from Kansas City, featuring work by Anne Lindberg, Kent Michael Smith, and Paul Anthony Smith, foregrounds an emphasis on site and contemporary practice in the Midwest.  While the press release pushes against a read of “regionalism”, the exhibition suggests otherwise – though perhaps this ever-present theme of region is symptomatic of a larger condition concerning a rise in questioning Midwestern “standards” for a definition toward “painting,” the term.  Strung together by a loose thread of abstraction, the exhibition features the artists’ differences as opposed to their similarities.  Far from being a negative thing, New Work from Kansas City highlights some very prevalent issues in what it means to put together exhibitions with a Midwestern slant today in Chicago. – Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor


parallel 39_al
Anne Lindbergparallel 39, 2013, graphite and colored pencil on cotton mat board, 58 x 51 inches,Courtesy the artist and Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago

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Postpositive: New Work by Zach Meisner at Courtney Blades by New American Paintings
June 14, 2013, 8:30 am
Filed under: Chicago, Review | Tags: , ,

Appearances can be deceiving in Zach Meisner’s work, and what may seem like a potentially recognizable form at first is often an illusion.  His recent exhibition, currently on view at Courtney Blades, is no exception.  In New Work, a collection of small paintings, symbols stand in for silhouettes of busts; asymmetry masks itself as something more harmonious, and meaningless forms take lovely lapses into the aesthetics of utilitarian design objects.  Though made out of low-grade construction materials – Plexiglas, plywood, MDF, and acrylic – Meisner’s paintings are sleek, clean, and crisp.  Through combinations of bold geometric elements and slow passages of sensory play, Meisner’s paintings border on the cusp of object and surface. – Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor

Zach Meisner, Installation View, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Courtney Blades.

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Invisible Performers: David Salle at The Arts Club of Chicago by New American Paintings
May 22, 2013, 8:30 am
Filed under: Chicago, Review | Tags: , ,

How can a figure pretend to be invisible, yet still remain the focus of the painting?  David Salle begs the question with his recent exhibition at The Arts Club of Chicago – a stunning collection entitled the Ghost Paintings, which displays a collection of work produced by Salle in the early 1990s.  The level of artifice referenced by the title, which though acknowledged in perhaps a witty sense, is never coy or masked – make no mistake, the mask may very well be the subject – but Salle’s relationship to form in these paintings is much more Classical than that.  Like folds carved out of alabaster marble, the forms the figures take in the paintings are heightened by their sculptural presence.  Each canvas in the exhibition carries on it a similar photographic image exposed directly onto photosensitized linen, depictions of longtime model Beverly Eaby, who was asked to pose in Salle’s studio covered in a simple white sheet.  Like cinematic portraits of an unseen performer, where dreams of phantasmagoria meet the hard-edged formalist, Salle’s theatrical, yet frivolous and unrehearsed canvases assail the reciprocity between the image, and how it is constructed. – Stephanie Cristello, Chicago Contributor

'92 Ghost 3
David Salle | Ghost 3, 1992, ink on photosensitized linen, 85 x 75 inches,  © David Salle, VAGA, NY. Photographer: John Berens.

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