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TRANSformal


Kasarian Dane Stephan Fritsch Brent Hallard Leonhard Hurzlemeier

TRANSformal

Robin McDonnell Mel Prest Richard Schur Nancy White

TRANS: a visual conversation between abstract painters; a traveling, transformable series of shows.

John Zurier

TRANS: Abstraktion

TRANSformal

TRANS . . .

WELTRAUM

Pharmaka

Meridian Gallery

Rumfordstrasse 26 Munich, Germany November 24 - December 9, 2007

101 West 5th Street Los Angeles, CA, US March 12 - May 2, 2009

535 Powell Street San Francisco, CA, US November 12 - December 19, 2009


TRANSformal at P H A R M A K A Introduction by Shane Guffogg: Artist, President and Co-Founder of Pharmaka Call me a hopeless romantic but I believe art, and especially painting, have the ability to change the way we see and thus change the way we think. I like to think of an artist’s brush stroke as a kind of alchemy, turning water into wine for our eyes to drink. My initial experience of this was the first time I stood in front of a Rembrandt at the London National Gallery. It was his second to last self-portrait with the paint so thick, his likeness becoming only an image to hang the paint on. I had never seen paint transformed into a visual metaphor that represents the physical world in this way and from that moment forward I knew the role of the artist was shamanic. My initial introduction to abstraction happened during an Art History class my first year of college. Sitting in the auditorium, starring at the large screen hovering over the stage, my world was turned upside down as I watched a slide show of Kandinsky. At first I was speechless, then nauseous and by the end of the class left with a splitting headache, cursing Kandinsky for the ill feelings that had suddenly consumed me. I was a teenager and luckily, open enough to wonder how colors and lines, existing for their own sake, could have such a physical impact on me. As a painter, I eventually left the figure out of my own work, which took many years, in exchange for intuitive markings on the canvas that referenced figurative painting. Now, after 20 years of making abstract paintings and climbing more hills while descending into more valleys than I dare count, it is with great pleasure that I write about an international group of abstract artists that have formed under the name TRANS. FIRST CONTACT

In the fall of 2007, Pharmaka received a packet in the mail inquiring about a show. This packet was sent by a group of artists who had come together under the umbrella of abstract painting. Pharmaka receives many inquiries from many artists, asking for shows, etc., but rarely does a group of artists inquire. Groups of artists are almost a thing of the past, being replaced by a gallery’s stable of artists. Hence, art movements or dominating styles are seemingly non-existent. Adding to the novelty of this request, the members of the group were located in different countries, having their discussions via email, which started with a simple conversation about abstract art and growing from there. That struck a chord of truth for me because Pharmaka began in a similar way; a conversation over dinner about the state of the art world and importance of painting. A meeting was set up for March of 2008 at Pharmaka with Mel Prest, Nancy White and Richard Schur, to further discuss the possibility of an exhibition. Our conversation started with why they chose Pharmaka for their proposed show? The answer was two-fold; a combination of Pharmaka being a non-profit founded by a group of painters and a show Mel and Nancy had seen the previous year at Pharmaka titled Non-Objectivity (curated by figurative painter Vonn Sumner). We sat talking for the next few hours looking at images, magazines, flyers and catalogues they had brought. It was exciting to be talking with like-

minded artists and what I saw before me was not only the result of their conversations but an exploration of the history of abstract painting from virtually every angle. Every time an artist picks up a brush they are entering into a visual conversation that has been taking place for thousands of years. Picking up a paintbrush is like walking into a cocktail party where you’ve arrived late and the people have already split off into groups based on common interest. You can’t just walk up and start talking without knowing what the conversation has been about. There is a long history of a visual dialogue and if an artist wants to join in, they better know what their peers have been talking about. And by peers, I mean all of art history because a great work of art transcends its time and place and is just as moving today as it was 500, 50 or 5 years ago-- great paintings are ever present. We ended our meeting by setting the date for the TRANSformal show for March- April of 2009. TRANS- THE BEGINNING

Trans began in 2006 when Richard Schur and Mel Prest met at an art opening in San Francisco. Richard Schur, who is from Munich, Germany, received a grant to work abroad and chose San Francisco for the light and the lower cost of living, realizing he could stay and work longer in California than New York. His grant monies lasted for 6 months and the influence of this trip are reflected in his titles, which are often names of California towns. Mel Prest, who lives and works in San Francisco, had an immediate connection with Richard about abstract painting, which they both saw as another form of language that can describe space, time, places and landscapes. Richard invited Mel to participate in Suitcase, a show of artists Richard encountered during his 6 month SF residency. Suitcase was held in Tokyo, at Bus-dori, a project space run by Brent Hallard, who had also lived in Germany and whose abstractions explore our perceptions of how we see. These three artists began an email correspondence about their ideas on what abstract art is now, sending links to websites to look at images that probed abstraction from both a conceptual and painterly perspective. The conversation quickly expanded as Richard invited Stephan Fritsch and Leonhard Hurzlmeier, both from Germany with Leonhard being a student of Richard’s, Mel invited Nancy White from Redwood City (near San Francisco), and Nancy invited John Zurier from Berkeley. Brent invited Kasarian Dane, who was originally from the Midwest (but now lives in upstate New York) and finally Mel invited Robin McDonnell, who lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay area. Not sharing the same language while communicating via email was a barrier but the subject of their exchanges only strengthened their idea that abstract art is a universal language. TRANS had their first show in Munich in 2007 (the title of the show in Munich was TRANS: Abstraktion) at Weltraum, a non-profit exhibition space, which was an important factor because they didn’t have to be concerned about sales or delivering art that was thought to be more saleable; it was art for art’s sake. While the artists discussed the show, their emails

also began questioning the definition of “abstraction” as seen from different cultures. In Germany, the discussion was more of an intellectual exploration and was seen as a vibrant form of communication whereas for the Northern California artists, abstraction was still connected to Modernism, which was potentially negative because it’s theoretically cemented in the past and not seen as part of the current dialogue of contemporary art. PARALLEL UNIVERSE

The parallels of how Pharmaka and TRANS came to be are strikingly similar, both having begun with simple but passionate conversations about art. In Pharmaka’s case, we all lived in and around Los Angeles, which gave us the ability to meet each week at one of our studios. These initial meetings began in 2003 but it should be noted that the thought of having an exhibition space was not on our minds. With each meeting, one of the original artists (John Scane, Vonn Sumner and myself) invited an artist to join our conversation about the meaning and place of painting and the role of the artists in our society. Not all the artists that were invited stuck around; some didn’t want to be a part of a group and others left not wanting to be associated with the manifesto that was written within the first 3 months. The Internet played a large part in the forming of Pharmaka (the group), as we exchanged ideas daily through emails, writing volumes, arguing, debating and describing our passion for paint. Our daily correspondence was a unifying element, and gave us strength through our numbers and helped to dissipate the isolation that comes from the solitary activity of painting. I think it is safe to say, most artists are not great at socializing but, as history tells us, like-minded people that think outside of the box often find each other. I do believe there is something in the air, a gestalt that is bringing forth the thought that art matters, with a renewed role for abstract painting as a viable language of the mind and soul that might even be referred to as a form of spirituality. I use the word with great joy because just a few years ago, in the ever-changing world of contemporary art, using the word spiritual to describe art was taboo. The pendulum is swinging, as our current global crisis of ecological changes grows daily while science attempts to explain a universe that we couldn’t have imagined 50 years ago. It is true that we have a deeper understanding of how our world works, but it is also very clear just how little we really know. ABSTRACTION

Abstract art in the Western sense, was born at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and, with the invention of the camera, became free of the rules of pictorialism. Abstract art was a manifestation of the philosophical, scientific and spiritual ideas and beliefs of the time. The early constructivist images of Malevich and Rodchenko, begun around 1913, investigated material properties of the object and its spatial presence in their purest form. Even though these artists and their group were a part of the early Communist movement, the abstract images were considered to be so empowering to the individual by the Soviet Regime that the movement and its ideological practices were eventually banned and Social Realism became the only officially sanctioned art. The opposite of that sentiment was promoted in America where the CIA secretly supported the exhibitions of the Abstract Expressionist because the work celebrated the individual, making Abstract Expressionism the first “original” art movement to be exported from the United Sates. But this new American art was based on earlier European creative forces like Mondrian and Kandinsky (another native Russian) who were two of Europe’s most influential sages of their day. Both artists were heavily influenced by Theosophy, with Mondrian’s geometric

abstractions delving into ideas of perfection through balance using lines, form and color that could have a positive and even transcendental effect on the mind. Kandinsky believed that humans would evolve to a higher level of consciousness and would no longer have a need for art and that his paintings would help with this evolutionary process. These are all powerful ideas stemming from the simple act of applying paint to canvas or board, referencing something outside of our visual reality. 21st CENTURY

The past 100 years has seen art trends flow from abstraction to hyperrealism to color field, from neo expressionist to pop and back again, as if art history were some sort of ping-pong match. The past 30 years has witnessed the rise and soon-to-be-demise of Post-modernism with appropriation as king and nothing new is the newest kid in town turning fact into fiction and TV becoming our reality. So where does art and especially abstract painting fit in at the beginning of the 21st century? For starters, having traveled through so many isms, painting is now free to be about itself. The making of the art is the art form and the chosen image the vehicle of human expression. Secondly, where abstraction and representation were once segregated and considered mutually exclusive, an image can now encompass abstraction, because abstract art is now part of our history and visual landscape. All of art history is available for artists to engage in a visual conversation with, thus making painting one of the few art forms that can connect us to both our recent and our distant past. Throughout history, whether it’s on cave walls, in a cathedral or on cloth stretched over pieces of wood, the image engages the unknown by bringing it into our three dimensional reality. Art is and always has been a powerful form of communication with the potential to transport, transform and alter our views and thoughts about our lives. A great abstract painting can stop a person in their tracks and seemingly defy reason for why it would even exist or how simple lines or the purest of colors could create an emotional response. It bypasses our mind’s sense of logic and goes straight to the source of our being, urging us to ask questions, for without a question, the answer would be meaningless. In our current state of accelerated information overload, we need the stillness of painting to reconnect us with the (often forgotten) mystery of life. If Kandinsky is correct about humans evolving beyond a need for art, I am quite certain it will not be in my lifetime. We are evolving, to be sure, and the truth of the artist, no matter from what period, is a universal truth that speaks of our evolution. I am grateful for those artists that have come before us, revealing through their art the non-tangible records of our past that ultimately points to and inform our future. I am very pleased to welcome the TRANSformal show to Pharmaka and excited about the possibilities that will unfold on the walls of 5th and Main in Downtown Los Angeles, illuminating the questions of the ongoing history and visual conversation of art making through the millennia that speaks of our need for beauty, balance, and an understanding of who are. February 2, 2009


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ARTIST

TITLE

DIMENSIONS

MEDIUM

DATE

1.

Richard Schur

Shadows

91 x 71 inches

Acrylic on linen

2008

2.

Mel Prest

Dancin’ Days

23 x 23 inches

Gouache, ink and pencil on paper

2007

3.

Brent Hallard

Wrap (monkey)

11.5 x 7.75 x .75 inches

PVC, colored corrugated plastics, tape, pencil, acrylic

2008

4.

Robin McDonnell

Event / blue, pink, 2008

19 x 19 inches

Oil on canvas

2008

5.

Stephan Fritsch

Mit Silber

23.6 x 20 inches

Oil on canvas

2008

6.

Kasarian Dane

Untitled

16 x 24 inches

Oil, acrylic, flashe on aluminum

2008

7.

Nancy White

Line - #2

8.75 x 11.75 inches

Acrylic on hand-tinted paper mounted on panel

2009

8.

John Zurier*

Untitled

17 x 14 inches

Watercolor on paper

2008

9.

Leonhard Hurzlmeier

Loupi

9.5 x 11 inches

Acryl / dispersion on canvas

2008

10.

Brent Hallard

Gift (monkey)

11 x 7.5 x .75 inches

PVC, colored corrugated plastics, tape, pencil, acrylic

2008

11.

Mel Prest

Minor Shades

12 x 12 x 2 inches

Oil on panel

2008

12.

Stephan Fritsch

Rundherum Wandmalerei

On location installation

Acrylic paint

13.

John Zurier*

Untitled

14 x 17 inches

Acrylic and flasche on paper

14.

Richard Schur

Solar Fire

71 x 95 inches

Acrylic on linen

15.

Leonhard Hurzlmeier

Korx

12 x 16 inches

Acryl / dispersion on canvas

2008

16.

Nancy White

Dk - Bl, 2009 (front &side view)

5.125 x 4 x 2.5 inches

Oil on steel

2009

17.

Robin McDonnell

Event / pink, black, 2008

38 x 38 inches

Oil on canvas

2008

18.

Kasarian Dane

Untitled (velvets)

2 panels 40 x 96 inches

Flasche on aluminum

2007

Inside front cover

Installation of TRANS at Weltraum in Munich, Germany, 2007

TRANS map

Mel Prest, 12 x 12 inches, gouache on paper, 2009

Inside back cover

Construction at Pharmaka, in Los Angeles CA, 2003

*

All works courtesy of Peter Blum Gallery in New York, NY and Paule Anglim Gallery in San Francisco, CA

Kasarian Dane

Canton, New York, USA www.kasariandane.com www.rolandcontemporary.com

Stephan Fritsch

Munich, Germany www.stephanfritsch.de www.claussemerak.de www.galerie-ebbers.de

Brent Hallard

Tokyo, Japan www.brenthallard.com

Leonhard Hurlzmeier

Munich, Germany www.klassezeniuk.de

Robin McDonnell

Berkeley, CA, USA www.briangrossfineart.com www.robinmcdonnell.com

Mel Prest

San Francisco, CA, USA www.gregorylindgallery.com www.melprest.com

Richard Schur

Munich, Germany www.richardschur.de

Nancy White

Redwood City, USA www.nancywhite.net

John Zurier

Berkeley, CA, USA www.gallerypauleanglim.com www.peterblumgallery.com

2008


Kasarian Dane Stephan Fritsch Brent Hallard Leonhard Hurzlemeier Robin McDonnell Mel Prest Richard Schur Nancy White John Zurier

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Trans  

Kasarian Dane, Stephan Fritsch, Brent Hallard, Leo Hurzlemeier, Robin McDonnel, Mel Prest, Richard Schur, Nancy White, John Zurier

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