Archive for December, 2009

All Eyes En Men

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Smiling Through: Nicole Eisenman, "Whatever Guy," 2009
Smiling Through: Nicole Eisenman, "Whatever Guy," 2009 (sideways detail)

If Nicole Eisenman spends so much time at beer gardens and dinner parties, then when does she reserve the peace and quiet studio time needed to toil over these moody, mysterious, playful, unsettling, and hilarious pictures?  Her palette seems uncaged, but the handling is not reckless.  Even when she dispenses oozy snakes of buttery paint to enhance (or corrupt) the placid surface, she is still restricted to roped-off zones of canvas, like a rowdy child penned in a playground.

Beer Garden with Ash, 2009
Beer Garden with Ash, 2009

How does she cultivate that rambunctious style, as jarring and enviable as an early bloomer, while simultaneously revealing a quiet admiration of art history – and pulling it off so effortlessly?  She swipes historical styles and movements while poking them and shooting rubber bands their way.

The Triumph of Poverty, 2009 (detail)
The Triumph of Poverty, 2009 (detail)

Bruegel imbroglio
Bruegel imbroglio

But these are love taps.  She knows that by giving history a wedgie, she preserves history by stirring it; it’s like pinching to prove wakefulness.

svablogeisenmanbed
NE: Night Studio, 2009

Courbet, "The Sleepers," 1866
Courbet, "The Sleepers," 1866

Speaking of love: these paintings’ titles, settings, and likenesses tell us how much of this work is based in autobiography and personal life.

Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste, 2009 (detail)
Hello Nurse: Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste, 2009 (detail)

But first: Tim Davis once identified Nicole as “our Daumier.”  Just as 19th-century French painters haunted the Paris cafes to sip absinthe, Nicole’s contemporaries hang out at Williamsburg bars for a few rounds of frothy beer.  She captures the shifting congregation like the creeping timelapse of an Impressionist landscape.  The surrounding crowd dissolves into monochrome figures, passing shadows, huddled groups, cameos of mask-like visages, and detailed likenesses in varying degrees of pertinence.  Nicole intimates the din and density of a crowded patio, instead of settling for an indexical panorama of one.

Beer Garden with Ash, 2009
Beer Garden with Ash, 2009

So one assumes that the “rendered” faces in the crowd are candid portraits of close friends and family, given that many of the paintings’ titles are on a first-name basis with their subjects.  For example, Beer Garden with Ulrike and Celeste probably stars artists Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Ulrike Mueller, the latter an editor of the lesbian journal and collective LTTR.

Jörg Immendorff, Cafe Deutschland IV
Jörg Immendorff, Cafe Deutschland IV

There’s even an arresting gaze from a glowing stud.  Thumbing his Blackberry, he isn’t that guy obliviously hunched over his device while everyone else is talking and laughing together; instead, his piercing blue eyes shoot laser beams across the gallery and rivet us in place as we cross by.  (I hope they will soon zap the noisy gallery attendant behind the counter.  I mean, I’m trying to concentrate here!)

Get a room, blue guy
Get a room, blue guy

So what gives with all the weird sex?  Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar, but those bottles are so…erect.  And abundant.  Just look at the silhouette guy having a Green Door moment.  I’m not the first to point out that many people stroke, peel, and clutch their beer bottle when sexually frustrated.  So what do painters do?

Or are you just happy to see me?
Or are you just happy to see me?

The Triumph of Poverty is a phallocentric dystopia, as flummoxed by renegade potency as Uganda. First, there’s the sad-looking salesman, leaning against the car, his pockets emptied and inverted.  His right-hand pocket aligns with his crotch and hangs like a deflated balloon or post-Bunnicula drained squash.  And then how about this blind lemon-colored man leading a chain of sightless peasants?  Obviously, his arse is turned forward (or backward), but his eye socket seems to be a peculiarly puckered orifice.

Two-faced
Two-faced

There’s something wrong with the men here, and I can’t deny the ways the painting reminded me of the foresaken decade we lost to the straight-shootin’ Bush administration.

Frederic Remington, "Sunday Morning Toilet on the Ranch," 1885
Frederic Remington, "Sunday Morning Toilet on the Ranch," 1885

The women, on the other hand, are mightily functional.  There’s even a distribution of labor among these independent matriarchs.  Compare the study for Winter Solstice 2012 Dinner Party with the finished version.

(l-r)
(l-r)

(r-l)
(r-l)

In Nicole Eisenman’s world, a woman needs a man like Julia Fish needs a bicycle.

But I think Nicole just needs her books, her beer, and her buddies.

Leo Koenig's butt?

Ppl are People

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Some highlights from the wave of mutilated figures stomping through Art Basel Miami Beach!

Robert Longo, Corporate Wars, 1982
Robert Longo, Corporate Wars, 1982

 

What a relief!
What a relief!

 

Liz Craft @ Marianne Boesky
Liz Craft @ Marianne Boesky

 

Matthew Monahan @ Anton Kern
Matthew Monahan @ Anton Kern

 

David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen
David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen

Square Peg

Sunday, December 6th, 2009


Here is Matt Nasser, Director of La Mama La Galleria on Daphne Fitzpatrick at NADA Art Fair:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiTBFsS1g1w

Round 3

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Greetings from chilly North Beach!

Nicole Eisenman at Leo Koenig booth
Nicole Eisenman at Leo Koenig booth

We braved the rainy morning and cloudy afternoon, and pernicious hangover to travel north to the NADA fair at the Deauville Resort.

(l-r) Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Conrad Ruiz, Jessica Silverman
(l-r) Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Conrad Ruiz, Jessica Silverman

Kiss the Sky: Conrad Ruiz with his painting (SOLD!) at Silverman Gallery
Kiss the Sky: Conrad Ruiz with his painting (SOLD!) at Silverman Gallery

It’s a much different vibe than previous NADAs at the Ice Palace. Smiling beauties at the front desk welcomed us and directed us to savory Cuban sandwiches and empanadas just outside. Delicious!

Kirk Hayes at Sunday L.E.S.
Kirk Hayes at Sunday L.E.S.

Much ado about NADA. The fair looks great. Opposed to the shimmering gloss at the big fair, NADA warms our cold hearts with handcrafted sculptures and paintings, cardboard and wood grain, tattered edges, glue gun assembly, and folked-up, Johansonfied brushwork.  The Zeitgeist was apparent, and crystal clear at some of the fair’s best booths.  Sunday L.E.S. kicked ass with trompe l’oeil paintings on panel by Texas-based artist Kirk Hayes, all sold. While the paintings appear scrappy, layered, and held together by masking tape, they are oil all the way down and meticulously drafted and crafted.

George Herms, Ida Elkblad at The Journal
George Herms, Ida Ekblad at The Journal

And Brooklyn’s The Journal gallery offers table-top assemblage pieces by L.A. legend George Herms.  Jack Hanley’s booth was full of playful, tiny paintings. I loved David Scanavino’s ABC (Already Been Chewed) copies of the Financial Times at Klaus von Nichtssagend, also in Brooklyn.

Pickles by Erwin Wurm at Jack Hanley
Pickles by Erwin Wurm at Jack Hanley

The director from a big gallery at the Big Fair was inquiring about the Scanavino work, which has begun to sell, even though the individual pieces themselves can’t actually be removed (nor sold).

Simon Watson and the Invisible-Exports family
Simon Watson and the Invisible-Exports family

Art advisor and curator Simon Watson cheered this year’s fair action as the best since 2003.  “The attitude is much different, much more joyful” he says.  “The work looks much better and everyone is ‘over grumpy.'”  Word on the street is he scored a two-million dollar sale, which would make me less grumpy, too.  Not that I’m really that grumpy here.

John Connelly with Scott Hug work at NADA
John Connelly with Scott Hug work at NADA
IMAGES: Michael Bilsborough

Round 2

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Greetings from the Miami Beach Convention Center!

The humid air provided remedy by helping me to sweat out all of the toxins from last night’s tour of open bars and nightclubs that still allow smoking indoors.

(l-r) Sterling Ruby @ Pace Wildenstein, Thomas Houseago @ Michael Werner
(l-r) Sterling Ruby @ Pace Wildenstein, Thomas Houseago @ Michael Werner

Supposedly, art is selling steadily, just not at the maniacal pace of years past.  Many of the booths look conservative, peddling old reliables: Alex Katz, Warhol, Richter, Richard Prince, lots of pop.  The oozy, polychrome Sterling Ruby monument at Pace Wildenstein was memorable, as was a towering Thomas Houseago sculpture. Actually, many other giant figures populated the fair, perhaps sired by Marc Quinn’s 500-kg orchid cast in bronze.

Marc Quinn @ Thaddaeus Ropac
Marc Quinn @ Thaddaeus Ropac

Meanwhile, there’s a revolution of round supports:

Robert Mangold
Robert Mangold, Ring Image H, 2009

Marc Quinn, We Share Our Chemistry with the Stars, 2009
Marc Quinn, We Share Our Chemistry with the Stars, 2009

Ugo Rondinone, No. 92, 1997
Ugo Rondinone, No. 92, 1997

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2009
Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2009

And myriad mirrors, stainless steel, and other reflective surfaces:

Tony Cragg, Inclination, 2009
Tony Cragg, Inclination, 2009

David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen
David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen

More Altmejd, this guy rocks
More Altmejd, this guy rocks

"What do you think?" Artist "reflects" on David Altmejd
"What do you think?" Art lover "reflects" on David Altmejd

Jonathan Monk, Deflated Sculpture, 2009
Jonathan Monk, Deflated Sculpture, 2009

Relentlessly awesome Jim Lambie, at Anton Kern Gallery
Relentlessly awesome Jim Lambie, at Anton Kern Gallery

Do collectors love to see themselves in their art?  Is narcissism a component of conspicuous consumption?  Let’s ask the pros.  Overseeing this empire of objects are Art Basel Co-Directors Marc (with a C) Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer:

Art Basel Co-Directors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer
Art Basel Co-Directors Marc Spiegler and Annette Schönholzer

Super artist Ai Weiwei (r) and Camille X (l)
Super artist Ai Weiwei (r) and Camille X (l)

My favorite thing so far has been the Wade Guyton wall at Friedrich Petzel. EXCLUSIVE to the SVA blog, Andrea Teschke, Director of Friedrich Petzel Gallery, talks us through it. Thanks, Andrea!

My least favorite thing was the rhinestone-coated deer by Marc Swanson at Richard Gray Gallery. Deer art went extinct in 2004, followed soon by sasquatch art. It’s not better than Liza Lou, and def can’t beat Damien Hirst: you can’t top his diamond skull, which is the ultimate in Bedazzler Art. Shouldn’t I shell out my $60,000 for some real bling?

IMAGES: Michael Bilsborough