Last week I went down to Chelsea to see David Salle’s new exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery (541 West 24th st.). Having been slightly underwhelmed by the other galleries that day, this exhibition really stood out to me. Salle’s large paintings are composed of panels reprising the iconic women of his work from the 80’s, and a recurring motif of an empty canoe or raft adrift on water can be seen throughout the series. Within his paintings reside smaller paintings, creating a complex body of work. Being a lover of technically skilled art, these paintings were right up my alley; Salle’s great foundational skill was put into play in the large figurative (some in color, some in black and white) portrayals of the often slightly raunchy women. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this show and recommend it, especially to those who enjoy traditional painting.
David Salle (born 1952) is from Norman, Oklahoma. He earned a BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts where he studied with John Baldessari. Salle’s work first came to public attention in New York in the early 1980s. Some of his major exhibitions have taken place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Castello di Rivoli (Torino, Italy), and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. He helped to define the post-modern sensibility by combining figuration with an extremely varied pictorial language.
Read the David Salle: New Paintings press release here.
Yesterday I visited the Howard Greenberg Gallery. This is a small photography gallery located on 41 E. 57th street between Park and Madison. The gallery was definitely really small and the exhibit was limited, but wide scope of talented photographers within the gallery was quite impressive. The current exhibition was called Selections from Collections, and this exhibit showed a few selections from Robert Frank’s The Americans, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, Bill Brandt, Walker Evans, and Weegee just to name a few. If you like photography I would definitely consider seeing this exhibition (it’s running from April 29th-August 1st). It shows a wide range of some of the most iconic and talented photographers ever as well as a great diversity of photographic styles ranging from landscapes, to portraits, candids, still life, and even fashion photography. This exhibit gives the viewer a sampling of the different types of photography in the ever-growing field.
This afternoon, I walked down to Tribeca to visit Steve Powers‘ studio with my good friend Paris Starn. Born in ’68 in Philadelphia, Powers started his artistic life as a graffiti artist under the tag “ESPO”. By the end of his illegal graffiti career, Powers had painted around 70 gates. Since 2000, he has been a full-time studio artist, with his work showing in places such as Deitch and the Venice and Liverpool Biennials. Powers’ most recent project, a mural in Philadelphia titled A Love Letter For You, consists of 50 murals along the elevated train on Market Street in West Philly. An accompanying book of the same name (shot by photographers Adam Wallacavage and Zoe Strauss) was released and is now available. In addition, Powers is the author of The Art of Getting Over, a book on graffiti’s history.
ESPO is part of a group of graffiti artists that includes Twist, Amaze, and Reas.
My trip to Powers’ studio was my second studio visit (first being to Tom Sachs‘). I expected the usual short bio and then Q&A session; I was wrong. Powers greeted us in a green suit, donning a golden “Brooklyn” pin he had just received from Marty Markowitz after a quick visit to his office. The walls of his studio were completely covered by his art, as well as by the works of artists such as Os Gemeos. Powers was not only extremely friendly, but also remarkably smart, and spoke about art in a casual, not intimidating way. Steve discussed his change from illegal to legal work, while fully condoning any aspiring graffiti artists to keep doing what they’re doing. When asked about what artists inspire him, he told us that he didn’t really like many contemporary artists (with specific snabs at Schnabel and Hirst), except for Tom Sachs and his graffiti buds (Twist, etc.). He also listed Matisse as one of his inspirations. After finishing, he sent us away with cupcakes, coffee, and white lighters he had designed with the word “Stolen” printed on them.
Tom Wesselmann was an American pop-artist whose claim-to-fame came from his well known collages. Wesselmann graduated from the prestigious Cooper Union institute. At Cooper Union Wesselmann began to study art in the context of New York. Wesselmann’s first series, Great American Nude, was primarily created in 1961 and gained him great recognition in the art world. The series is painted with a limited palette of colors and portrays patriotic ideas and themes. This series achieved such recognition and fame that Great American Nude No. 48 was Wesselmann sold in 2008 for over 10 million dollars. Though his work can’t exactly be defined as Pop Art, critics in the 1960s included him in the rising group. This was done much to Wesselmann’s dismay. Soon after Great American Nude, Wesselmann began to work on a series called Still Life. His next two subject studies became Bedroom Painting, and The Smoker Study which later helped develop the Mouth series. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s Tom Wesselmann continued to produce work until his death in 2004. Wesselmann has been featured in shows at The MOMA and the Whitney.
Kenny Scharf is a Hollywood-born artist who resides in Brooklyn. After receiving his B.F.A from the School of Visual Arts in 1980, Scharf soon began to rise to fame in the 1980s pop-art scene. Scharf is known for his pop-art with science-fiction backgrounds. His work is mainly graffiti art and could be described as “pop-surrealism.” Scharf was influenced as a child by shows like the Jetsons and the Flintstones, whose influence can be seen in the space-age scenery and the shapes, colors, and style of Scharf’s work.
Kenny Scharf rose to fame in the East Village art scene of the 1980s with artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Alongside close friend Keith Haring, Scharf created a blacklight disco installation in their apartment known as the “Cosmic Closet.” The “Cosmic Closet” has evolved into the “Cosmic Cavern” where Scharf held a series of parties from 2009-2010. Recently, Scharf painted the Bowery Mural in New York City.
In 2002, Scharf created a one-episode show called “The Groovenians”. The cartoon was about two young adults who were escaping the restraints of their own planet to a new world where they could embrace art. Actors featured in “The Groovenians include Paul Reubens (more commonly known as Pee Wee Herman), Dennis Hopper, and Debi Mazer. Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the Groovenians episode can be seen here. Kenny Scharf is represented by the Paul Kasmin Gallery located in New York City.
I thought we’d time warp back and look at the fascinating artist Max Beckmann (1884-1950). Beyond the fantastic work Beckmann made, he led an extremely interesting life. Beckman was the type of artist who refused to be labeled by a particular artistic movement. Though he was called an Expressionist artist, Beckmann himself never agreed to being one. Beckmann’s vision was drawn from his traumatic experiences during World War I. The effects of the trauma can be seen in his dark tones and distortions. Beckmann is well-known for his self-portraits and his struggle of how to define himself. Beckmann always followed his own path, and is renowned as artist who strived to create his own vision. During the late 1920s, Beckmann was quite the successful artist in the Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, his fame was fleeting with the rise of Adolf Hitler. Hitler disdained contemporary art and labeled Beckmann “a cultural Bolshevik.” In 1937, Beckmann had over 500 of his paintings, sculptures and prints confiscated by the Nazis. Many of his works were put on display in the notorious Degenerate Art Exhibit in Munich. He spent the next 10 years in exiled in Amsterdam and then moved to the United States shortly after the war. In the United States, he taught at Washington University in St. Louis and The Brooklyn Museum until his death in 1950. Max Beckmann’s work has been shown at Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum, The Centre Pomidou, and Tate Museum since his death.
Os Gêmeos (Portuguese for “The Twins”), or Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, are two identical twin brothers from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Born in 1974, they started painting graffiti in 1987. The brothers usually paint yellow-skinned characters (because of the tinge both of them have in their dreams), and their subject matters ranges from family portraits to commentary on São Paulo’s social and political circumstances.
In 1993, Otavio and Gustavo met Twist, or Barry McGee, with whom they shared experiences and techniques. Twist gave them a lot of photographic examples from the American graffiti scene, and introduced them to Allen Benedikt (founder of 12oz Prophet Magazine). Together with Caleb Neelon (a.k.a. Sonik), Allen interviewed the brothers for his magazine, giving them their first introduction to audiences outside South America. Some of their latest work includes a wall in Miami, Florida, painted for Art Basel Miami Beach, as well as the Houston st. mural (no longer up). In addition, Os Gêmeos has done a 60 foot mural on Coney Island, a painting of 16 at 10 meters in the centre of Heerlen, the Netherlands, and a mural on 21st between 8th and 9th avenues.