Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Open Casket

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

“The painting must go,” writes Hannah Black. Like a chant, she reprises the demand throughout an open letter to the Whitney Biennial curators, in response to Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket,” a painting of Emmett Till’s corpse.1

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Artist Parker Bright protesting at the Whitney Biennial. Photo: Michael Bilsborough

“Neither are we all completely unknowable,” writes Dana Schutz. Beyond racial divisions, she seems to plea, she is a mother who happens to be white, she can relate to Mamie Till-Mobley. “My engagement with this image was through empathy with his mother.”2

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Parker Bright at the Whitney. Photo: Michael Bilsborough

“A white woman had Emmett Till killed,” said Parker Bright to me, while he was physically protesting in front of “Open Casket.” His shirt read, “Black Death Spectacle.”

Hannah Black urges the destruction of “Open Casket,” accusing Dana Schutz of being so careless as to “transmute Black suffering into profit and fun.” Moreover, Schutz has overstepped the boundaries of subject matter, with damaging consequences.

“Black people are telling her that the painting has caused unnecessary hurt, she and you must accept the truth of this,” writes Black.

The Whitney curators classify “hurt” as “tremendous emotional resonance.”

Meanwhile, Henry Taylor’s painting of a police officer shooting Philando Castile sums up a horrifying plague of police violence against Black men, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and too many more. The violence is a catastrophe, as is the “spectacle” opposed by Parker Bright and Hannah Black:

“A similarly high-stakes conversation has been going on about the willingness of a largely non-Black media to share images and footage of Black people in torment and distress or even at the moment of death, evoking deeply shameful white American traditions such as the public lynching.”

Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH! (2017), Photo: Hyperallergic

Henry Taylor, “THE TIMES THAY AINT A CHANGING, FAST ENOUGH!”, 2017, Photo: Hyperallergic

Like Emmett Till’s casket, Philando Castile’s unjustifiable death was a spectacle that galvanized protest actions. But at the Whitney, nobody is protesting Henry Taylor’s painting, partly because Henry Taylor is Black.3

Hannah Black’s letter describes a world of artistic freedom based on binary (or trinary) race realities: Black, white, Non-Black. So how do we address non-Black artists appropriating images of lynching?


Robert Gober, “Hanging Man / Sleeping Man,” 1989 © 2017 Robert Gober

Robert Gober? His “Hanging Man/ Sleeping Man” (1989) repeats a lynching as a pattern motif. Is it permissible because it implicates “white obliviousness and sins of omission,” as suggested by Thomas Micchelli in Hyperallergic?

Paul Chan, "My birds... trash... the future.," 2004, Photo: Greene Naftali

Paul Chan, “My birds… trash… the future.,” 2004, Photo: Greene Naftali

Paul Chan? His apocalyptic animated video, “My birds…trash…the future” (2004) depicted a lynching, almost in line with the “tradition of the lynched figure left out in public view as a warning to the black community,” something Emmett Till’s mother reversed, as described by Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye in The New Republic. They write:

“Her son’s body would not be made into a spectacle nor be a symbol for black fear and white supremacy. By controlling the way that his body looked, Mobley was able to define its legacy. Although he was taken from her, the way lynched Americans were taken from their families, she was able to invert the final stage of public murder, which is spectacle.”

Demetrius Oliver, "Till," 2004

Demetrius Oliver, “Till,” 2004

Another artist who has depicted lynchings is Adrian Piper, an artist who has cast (and embodied) race to be far more ambiguous than Hannah Black does. In her “Cornered” (1988), Piper reports:

“In fact, some researchers estimate that almost all purportedly white Americans have between 5% and 20% black ancestry. Now, this country’s entrenched conventions classify a person as black if they have any black ancestry. So most purportedly white Americans are, in fact, black. Think what this means for your own racial classification. If you’ve been identifying yourself as white, then the chances are really quite good that you’re in fact black.”

Adrian Piper Cornered, 1988, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Adrian Piper, “Cornered,” 1988, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

How does Piper’s racial ambiguity hold up to Hannah Black’s outlook, which is based in a stark taxonomy? Even if we reject Piper’s genetic argument, could we understand it hermeneutically as a lesson that apparent racial differences should not fool us out of solidarity? That Black, white, and non-black people have more in common than is visible?

Cultural appropriation has felled many artists, like Kelley Walker at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis last year, all the way back to Rob Pruitt and Jack Early at Leo Castelli in 1992.

Kelley Walker, "Black Star Press; Star, Star, Star Press," 2007. Photo: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Kelley Walker, “Black Star Press; Star, Star, Star Press,” 2007. Photo: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

And calls for censorship are familiar, though they typically come from the top down, from institutions, not from artists. The Catholic League fought David Wojnarowicz’s video at The Hirschhorn in 2010; Rudy Giuliani infamously threatened the Brooklyn Museum for exhibiting a Chris Ofili painting. “Sick stuff,” he called it. Still, hostility comes from the ground up, too. “Fuck White Art” graffiti defaced a gallery in Los Angeles. And that’s just in the United States. Look abroad for more hostility.

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Photo: Michael Bilsborough

Art thrives on freedom of expression, so we should never silence an artist – including those artists who use open letters as material. With the NEA in danger, a plurality of voices is more important than ever. Still, Hannah Black seems to ask, “Is this so-called freedom really worth hurting Black viewers?” Why should that pain be acceptable? And suppose consensus accepts that the painting must go. Would that really heal the hurt that it caused? Would that act stifle the valuable discourse resulting from the painting’s visibility? Although censorship is at the heart of this issue, there are other compelling issues to examine, sooner rather than later, many of which are unearthed in “Open Casket.”

Alice Neel at David Zwirner Gallery

Alice Neel at David Zwirner Gallery

Jerry Saltz describes it as “…thick, sluicing…”.
“Ms. Schutz doesn’t picture his wounds as much as the pain of looking at them,” writes Roberta Smith.
3  The style of Dana Schutz’s painting is also a factor, as detailed by Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye in The New Republic. “Schutz has smeared Till’s face and made it unrecognizable, again. The streaks of paint crossing the canvas read like an aggressive rejoinder to Mamie Till Mobley’s insistence that he be photographed.”

Student Artwork Update: Nicky Lindeman

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

We are pleased to present portrait paintings by SVACE student Nicky Lindeman! Nicky created this artwork in conjunction with numerous courses, including Portrait Painting with John ParksDrawing with Anton van Dalen, and Portrait Drawing with Alphonse Woerkum.

Artwork by Nicky Lindeman

Artwork by Nicky Lindeman

Nicky writes: “I have been working over the last couple of years on a group of portraits in oil paint and mixed media drawing material. It is an engaging process for me, the interpretation of a live model; mixing careful observation with an expressive response in color and line. Often the portraits feel like character descriptions in a short story. The results are always a surprise, never planned, like meeting a new friend.”

Artwork by Nicky Lindeman

Artwork by Nicky Lindeman

See Nicky’s work in our exhibition space at 380 Second Avenue, 8th floor, until March 31!

Bushwick Beat

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

For this installment of Bushwick Beat, we visited the 56 Bogart St. building to see the latest exhibition at Life on Mars gallery.  The reason we focused our visit entirely on Life on Mars was the news that it would be closing its doors with a final show. This comes as a surprise, as Life on Mars has been responsible for hosting talented and relevant painters throughout its brief history, many of which are synonymous with the art scene in Bushwick.

"An Occasional Dream" at Life On Mars Gallery

“An Occasional Dream” at Life On Mars Gallery

The gallery put on a group show titled An Occasional Dream.  As is befitting for a gallery named Life on Mars, the title is derived from a David Bowie song of the same name, and featured a number of the artists they have shown over the years.

Work by Paul D’Agostino

Work by Paul D’Agostino

Most of the artists featured here have been the subject of shows at the gallery before, making each work in the exhibition feel like a song on a greatest hits album, each standing in for the rich and exciting shows it has held in the past.  We covered many of these artists in Bushwick Beat in the past, including Paul D’Agostino’s here, whose work is pictured above.

Farrell Brickhouse at Life on Mars

Farrell Brickhouse at Life on Mars

Farrell Brickhouse, an SVA instructor regularly featured at Life on Mars Gallery, contributed a thickly worked silver painting for the show.  Its most distinguishing feature was a crater cut out of the center that strikingly resembles the moon, complete with craggy stucco surface and silver sheen. The painting perfectly captures the moon – both its perpetual presence in the night sky and its intangible distance in space.  The dingy-bound figures accumulate at the very bottom of the canvas giving gravity to the scene so that the moon hovers in contrast.

Daniel John Gadd at Life On Mars Gallery

Daniel John Gadd at Life On Mars Gallery

Continuing the motif of irregular, moon-like circles, Daniel John Gadd contributed a large painting with blue glass on plywood.  The piece is rich with weathered subtlety – a clear result of the artist’s process and the fragile sense of care he brings to it.

Todd Bienaveau at Life on Mars Gallery

Todd Bienaveau at Life on Mars Gallery

Todd Bienaveau’s paunchy paintings usually depict slovenly figures drinking beer, getting tattoos or attending rock concerts.  In this piece, the artist shows a painters supplies, brushes in an empty gesso bucket and a paint tube with the cap twisted on.  By the mute blue green of the setting, they look quietly pushed aside after a day’s work.

Brenda Goodman at Life on Mars Gallery

Brenda Goodman at Life on Mars Gallery

Brenda Goodman’s piece reads like a strange surrealist play.  She draws together associations with Tim Burton films and 2-D side scrolling video games in a way that manages to feel fresh and unbeholden to influence.  Her limping, wooly-black figures are barely animated abstract shapes, and are given breath by nothing more than an occasional delirious eye.

Fran O’Neil at Life on Mars Gallery

Fran O’Neil at Life on Mars Gallery

Since the closing of the show, it has been announced that with Life on Mars gallery closing, a new gallery will take its place.  David&Schweitzer Contemporary will carry over a majority of the artists and management from Life on Mars.  The re-formed gallery will be opening in the same space with its first show opening for the upcoming Bushwick Open Studios taking place on October 1st and 2nd.

Even as it turns out that the closure of Life on Mars is not so final as it seemed, its final exhibition in its current form was a great occasion to reflect on art in Bushwick throughout the gallery’s tenure, and to consider where it might be headed as the neighborhood ceaselessly continues to change.  In any case, the exhibition was an occasion to dream.

-Will Patterson

Faculty Updates

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

What have SVACE faculty members been up to? We have exciting updates from course instructors Emily Weiner, Jason Stopa, Jade Doskow, and Denis Ponsot!


Work by Inna Babaeva, via The Willows

Emily Weiner co-curated If You Build It,” which was on view at the rooftop floor of Lord & Taylor in NYC.  In between making art and curating shows, Emily teaches our course, “Contemporary Painting Lab: Artists and Techniques of the 21st Century.” Read more about Emily and The Willows at The New York TimesDomus, and Artnet.

Image via Venus

Image via VENUS


Jason Stopa’s paintings are included in “Fort Greene,” a group show at the new VENUS gallery in Los Angeles. The show “maps a web of connections between artists whose paths have crossed in different places at different points in time.” Jason teaches the SVACE course, “Conversations in Contemporary Painting.”

Jade Doskow image via Atlas Obscura

Jade Doskow image via Atlas Obscura

Jade Doskow, photography faculty member, was featured on Atlas Obscura for her recent book, Lost Utopias, which collects her series of photos of World Fair sites. Jade writes, “It’s because of the utopian and dystopian characters of these sites; because old buildings falling apart are not just old buildings falling apart. There is so much vision that was put into these daring structures.” Jade teaches the course, “Portfolio Workshop: Landscapes and the Built Environment.”

Image via Denis Ponsot

Image via Denis Ponsot

Denis Ponsot is featured in “Balancing Light and Form,” a group show at Huntington Arts Council, NY. Denis teaches “Watercolor Painting” at SVACE. And Shelley Haven, who teaches “Pastels,” exhibited landscape paintings at the Media Loft for New Rochelle ArtsFest!

Painting by Shelley Haven

Painting by Shelley Haven

See more updates on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages!

Student Artwork Update: Carole Katz

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

We are pleased to present portrait paintings by SVACE student Carole Katz, created in conjunction with the courses, “Realistic Portrait and Figure Painting” with Marvin Mattelson through several semesters.

Painting by Carole Katz

Painting by Carole Katz

Carole writes, “Drawing and painting have always been my greatest passions. I have a BA in English from Binghamton University and a BFA in Interior Design from Centenary College, as well as many years of fine art training. I have studied with master portrait artist Marvin Mattelson at the School of Visual Arts in NYC for several years. I’ve also taken classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC: duCret School of Art in Plainfield, NJ; The Art Students League of NY; The New York Academy of Art and The National Academy of Art.”

“For me, the most interesting and challenging subject in art is the human face. Each person is totally unique and presents a unique and interesting challenge with every new painting. Working to create a 3 dimensional likeness of a person on a 2 dimensional surface such as paper or canvas is the challenge that intrigues me and continues to inspire me.”

“In addition, I’m always inspired by color and patterns that I see around me and I use those inspirations in painting subjects such as still lifes and landscapes. My collage work is a fun way to express my interest in color and pattern.”

See Carole’s work in our exhibition space at 209 East 23rd Street until September 30.  Find more of her work at her website and Marvin Mattelson’s blog.