128 pages, 78 illustrations in color
Fresh Paint Selene Wendt
Edited by Selene Wendt Texts by Paco Barragรกn, Tommy Olsson, Michele Robecchi, Trevor Schoonmaker, Selene Wendt.
Fresh Paint showcases international artists whose approach to painting is particularly fresh and relevant within a contemporary art context. This publication aims to present a highly selective group of artists whose approach, style, or subject matter is as contemporary as any photography, video, or large-scale installation. It also features work that ultimately questions the means and media of painting, challenging the viewer to consider which factors contribute to making a painting fresh and contemporary today. The works range from highly conceptual to more formally oriented, and also touch upon the question of when a painting ceases (or starts) to be a painting. Although these artists are technically proficient at what they do, the significance of their work extends far beyond an ability to paint a pretty picture.
Javier Barilaro Sverre Bjertnes Markus Brendmoe Kudzanai Chiurai Patricia Claro Katharina Grosse Crispin Gurholt Barkley L. Hendricks Carlos Huffmann Steinar Jakobsen Brad Kahlhamer Kerry James Marshall Julie Mehretu Wangechi Mutu Elizabeth Peyton Cristiano Pintaldi Martin & Sicilia Thaddeus Strode Kehinde Wiley
Fresh Paint edited by Selene Wendt
Design Fayçal Zaouali
This publication was supported by
Editorial Coordination Filomena Moscatelli
Copyediting Emily Ligniti
Promotion and Web Elisa Legnani
The Pleasure and the Painting Tommy Olsson
Squeezing the Drop of Paint: Forty-one Notes on Painting and the Performative Paco Barragán
Will the Circle Be Unbroken? A Few Reflections on Painting Michele Robecchi
Distribution Anna Visaggi Administration Grazia De Giosa Warehouse and Outlet Roberto Curiale
© 2012 Edizioni Charta, Milano © The Stenersen Museum, Oslo © The authors for their texts © The artists for their works
All rights reserved ISBN 978-88-8158-844-2 Printed in Italy
Cover Photo by Chris Harrison
We apologize if, due to reasons wholly beyond our control, some of the photo sources have not been listed.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of copyright holders and of the publisher.
Barkley L. Hendricks: Reverberations Trevor Schoonmaker
104 Copywriting and Press Office Silvia Palombi International Editorial Director Francesca Sorace
A Fresh Approach to Contemporary Painting Selene Wendt
The Stenersen Museum PO Box 1965 Vika N-0125 Oslo Norway Tel. +47-23493600 Edizioni Charta srl Milano via della Moscova, 27 - 20121 Tel. +39-026598098/026598200 Fax +39-026598577 e-mail: email@example.com www.chartaartbooks.it
Javier Barilaro Sverre Bjertnes Markus Brendmoe Kudzanai Chiurai Patricia Claro Katharina Grosse Crispin Gurholt Barkley L. Hendricks Carlos Huffmann Steinar Jakobsen Brad Kahlhamer Kerry James Marshall Julie Mehretu Wangechi Mutu Elizabeth Peyton Cristiano Pintaldi Martin & Sicilia Thaddeus Strode Kehinde Wiley
1. ”Painting a la Mode: Painting as Paradox Artists Space,” The Village Voice, December 4, 2002. 2. The entire lecture given at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts is available on YouTube.
A Fresh Approach to Contemporary Painting
As a museum that normally has a strong focus on photography and video, we thought it would be interesting to organize a large-scale painting exhibition that would include both Norwegian and international artists whose approach to painting comes across as particularly fresh and relevant within a contemporary art context. Fresh Paint does not set out to defend the genre of painting categorically, nor does it need to. As Jerry Saltz puts it: “We need to get over the painting-as-victim-andvictor complex.”1 Fresh Paint does present a highly selective group of international artists whose approach, style, or subject matter is as powerful as any photography, video, or large-scale installation. Fresh Paint features a significant body of work that ultimately questions the means and media of painting, asking viewers to consider which factors contribute to making a painting fresh and contemporary today. Among the artists in the exhibition, the answers are found either in terms of their specific approach to the medium of painting, or in the subject matter that they choose to paint. The works range from highly conceptual to more formally oriented, and also touch upon the question of when a painting ceases (or starts) to be a painting. The underlying themes, approach, and subject matter are such that although these artists are technically proficient at what they do, the significance of their work extends beyond an ability to paint a pretty picture. With Edvard Munch as the almighty godfather for several generations of Norwegian artists, it probably comes as no surprise that there is a strong tradition of painting in Norway. That said, and with all due respect to those painters who have worked hard, held their ground, and flourished through years and years of outdated domestic debates about the status of painting, there are now more Norwegian painters than ever who produce engaging, relevant, thought-provoking work that has become integral to Norwegian contemporary art practice. There is an increasing stronghold of seriously talented Norwegian painters whose work has enough substance and contemporary relevance to signal a solid and positive trend in Norwegian painting today. Prior to this positive turning point, most Norwegian painters were overshadowed by the sheer genius of Munch. While Munch still holds his ground as Norway’s most mythologized, nearly deified, larger-than-life artist persona, there is finally something new that makes Oslo feel slightly less like a polar outpost and, at times, almost like an international art capital. It should be acknowledged that Munch directly inspires at least two of the artists featured in this exhibition, and Munch’s style has contributed in large part to their development and success. To be sure, Norwegian contemporary art wouldn’t be what it is today without the legacy of Edvard Munch, but the time is right to expand the topic of discussion beyond the visible traces of Munch. The artists featured in Fresh Paint represent an unexpected mix of various approaches and methodologies that ultimately gets to the heart of painting itself and where it stands today not only in Oslo, but in New York, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Rio, and many other places in between. In a recent lecture at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, Kerry James Marshall gave a riveting account of the development of his artistic career, punctuated by the highlights and gaping gaps of art history.2 Extending as far back as cave painting,
Katharina Grosse One floor up more highly, 2010 Soil, wood, acrylic, Styrofoam, clothing, acrylic on glass-fiber, reinforced plastic, and acrylic on canvas Installation at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA Photo Art Evans
© Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010 Courtesy of Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica and Galerie nächst St. Stephan / Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna
and touching upon European masters and pop art, as well as Haitian and Yoruban religious symbolism, Marshall told the story of a young African-American boy who grew up to become a legendary artist. Among the most important topics in his lecture was the inexcusable absence of African-American artists in art historical narratives (with the exception of Jean-Michel Basquiat). He pointed out that African-American artists only enter into the narrative when multiculturalism and identity politics begins to be discussed, but not outside that context. Through the years Marshall has fought against this injustice, dedicated to “seeking ways to bridge the gap so that you enter into the dominant narrative of art history that is secure.” In discussing his artistic ambitions, Marshall spoke convincingly about the importance of originality, reminding the audience about Seurat’s search for something new, “an art entirely his own.” Marshall went on to talk about pop art, summing up that entire chapter of art history by pointing out that there are only two artists who really matter: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Kerry James Marshall subsequently poses the question “Where are you going to situate yourself in relation to all that?” There is no question that he has managed to situate himself securely as a contemporary painter whose work is original, powerful, significant, and empowering, and I will return to the specifics of his work later. Kerry James Marshall’s words of wisdom provide a perfect introduction to Fresh Paint, an exhibition that features the work of twenty contemporary artists from all around the world, who have all found an art that is all their own. Marshall’s belief that “one’s work must distinguish itself from everything else, on its own terms” could almost be the manifesto for this exhibition. Through completely different visual means and from totally different historical and cultural perspectives, the artists in Fresh Paint all set themselves apart in one way or another—formally, conceptually, or methodologically. Known for her large-scale installations that break down the barriers between painting and sculpture, Katharina Grosse is an ideal artist to begin with in terms of her fresh formal approach to contemporary painting. Conceptual at the core, and bordering on Disney-experience exciting, Grosse’s work can be described as largerthan-life painting, and sculpture is the racy vehicle that brought her straight into the art world fast lane, with spectacular exhibitions from Guggenheim Berlin to Mass MoCA as the ultimate prize. Most often, she works site-specifically, as she did for these two blockbuster shows. She not only paints with paint, she implements it, plays with it, deconstructs it, and approaches paint as a sculptor or ceramicist might, creating massive installations that raise a host of interesting questions about what painting is, proving time and time again that there are no limitations to what painting can be, only endless possibilities. Katharina Grosse’s fun and playful approach to painting does not belie the fact that it also borders on genius in its complex simplicity and ability to challenge everything we have ever learned to accept as true when it comes to what painting is or isn’t. In a sense, she treats the medium of painting as if it were an object, highly conscious of and interested in the various physical attributes of paint, ranging from dust to spray paint. Whether she uses paint in site-specific installations that literally
Katharina Grosse Untitled, 2008 Acrylic, soil on canvas 246 x 510 cm Photo Olaf Bergmann © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2008
Katharina Grosse Un altro uomo che a fatto sgocciolare il suo penello, 2008 Acrylic on canvas, polyurethane resin, ground, wall, floor, various objects 800 x 1100 x 1100 cm Installation view at Galleria Civica di Modena, 2008 Photo Paolo Terzi © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2008
Katharina Grosse Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 300 x 448 cm Photo Olaf Bergmann © Katharina Grosse and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2011
Markus Brendmoe Self Portrait with Cigarette, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 100 x 80 cm Markus Brendmoe work in progress
cut into and divide the exhibition space with color and form, or uses it more traditionally in the form of spray paint on a canvas, her works demand our full, undivided attention. As an artist who is accustomed to expressing herself through large-scale installations, it is no surprise that her canvases are also very large scale. In preparing for this exhibition one of the artists jokingly said to me that those who can paint, paint, those who canâ€™t paint, paint big. Of course, the same could be said about any medium, including photography and sculpture, and while there are artists who have somehow been misled to believe that bigger is always better, regardless of quality, none of the artists in this exhibition are guilty of this misconception or malpractice, and Katharina Grosse is no exception. To the contrary, her oversize canvas (measuring six by two and half meters) represents in sheer size what it also represents in impact and relevance both formally and conceptually speaking. Within the context of Fresh Paint, Grosseâ€™s single painting speaks volumes about her artistic project while also revealing some of the qualities that make painting, or at least her particular approach to painting, particularly fresh and alive. Markus Brendmoe takes an entirely different approach to painting-as-installation by integrating paintings into a studio-like installation context for Fresh Paint. His
Markus Brendmoe Self Portrait between the Clock and the Bed, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 200 x 185 cm
work reflects an unconventional approach to traditional forms of expression, and challenges pre-conceived notions of what art should or shouldn’t be. From the start of his career Brendmoe has played with the limits and possibilities of painting in an entirely uninhibited way. His work typically conveys sharp criticism of conformity, often signaling a breakdown of all creative barriers. Brendmoe is as likely to paint on pages from glossy fashion magazines, old doors, paint cans, and other debris as traditional canvas. After many years as a highly respected, yet refreshingly rebellious, artist he recently decided to take on the most daunting and potentially catastrophic challenge of all—following in the footsteps of Edvard Munch. With equal parts respect and humor, he deconstructs the myth of Munch. Brendmoe is as comfortable with a pencil as he is with a paintbrush, and constantly shifts between the two in innovative ways. His recent Munch-inspired works involve a thorough, repetitive investigation of the same theme that almost borders on caricature. Certain details are drawn and painted over and over again until the original motif is completely unrecognizable. Important details are gradually erased away, paint is applied to paint, to then be scraped away. Edvard Munch’s face is everywhere. At times the face is clearly defined, other times it is little more than a shadow. Munch’s most iconic works are so instantly recognizable that Brendmoe can go quite far in covering up the original motifs without the reference to Munch ever fading away completely. In Brendmoe’s investigation and interpretation of
3. Martin & Sicilia, Tenerife Espacio de Arte (TEA) exhibition catalogue, page 15. 4. Ibid., page 22.
Munch he brings the singularly most mythologized artist in the history of Norwegian art down from his pedestal, with both respect and humor. Markus Brendmoe’s Munch-inspired works are significant in that they reflect the most important aspects of Brendmoe’s approach to painting. The goal is not to recreate Munch to see how close he can come to the godfather of modernism. Rather, Brendmoe analyzes Munch’s art by means of appropriation and subsequently questions his own pre-conceived notions about Munch. Brendmoe’s specific choice of Munch’s self-portrait as the most central theme indicates that Brendmoe isn’t only fascinated by Munch’s artistry; he is fascinated by the whole myth surrounding Munch as a person. With wit, humor, and the necessary tools to make it work formally, the results strengthen Brendmoe’s position as an important contemporary Norwegian painter. For Fresh Paint Brendmoe makes everything a little more personal, essentially reconstructing his own studio in the museum, replacing Munch with the more personal and private subject matter of his son. Martin & Sicilia also bring scenes from their private and personal life into the public museum sphere. Work that initially signaled a unique formal approach to painting-as-installation has since evolved into large-scale work with an increased emphasis on underlying political and conceptual themes. Cars and car-wrecks figure prominently as the ultimate metaphor for power, violence, and consumer consumption. Martin & Sicilia are interested in exploring the possibilities of storytelling through painting. Certainly, the narratives that unfold in their work add up to a compelling story that relates not only to painting but also to contemporary art practice in general. According to Ramiro Carrillo: “Martin & Sicilia chose to paint because they understood that this was the most irreverent, antiquated, incorrect, anachronistic, and annoying thing that you could do in 1997.”3 Times have changed considerably since then, as has Martin & Sicilia’s work. In the beginning Martin & Sicilia chose to paint subjects going about the mundane activities of daily life, using themselves as the subjects of their own work. They carefully built their work on the framework of artist as icon, where they played roles that were not biographical situations, but constructed scenes rich with metaphor, irony, and underlying critique. Through the years, their focus has shifted slightly to include more direct references to their real lives. This development includes an emphasis on the wider implications of various social situations such as meetings, parties, and intrigues. Martin & Sicilia’s private home became the stage where aspects of society at large were played out in work that highlights the social and political contradictions of contemporary society, “including the frictions of migratory movements, fear of the other, power games, or the disillusion of Western civilization.”4 Martin & Sicilia use theatrical and performative aspects to get their message across, as does the Norwegian artist Crispin Gurholt. As with Gurholt, Martin & Sicilia’s commitment to painting is evident even when they work in photography, both in terms of compositional structure and inclusion of actual paintings in the motifs. More than painters in the strictest sense, these are conceptual artists with a distinctly painterly approach to contemporary art, regardless of the medium. Parallel to the developments of their installation works, Martin & Sicilia’s wall paintings
Martin & Sicilia La Se単al, 2007 Oil on canvas 100 x 260 cm Image courtesy of Martin & Sicilia Martin & Sicilia Los Alborotadores, 2004 Oil on canvas 140 x 300 cm Image courtesy of Martin & Sicilia
Martin & Sicilia Turning Viewers into Users, 2006 Acrylic on cut wood 400 x 250 cm Image courtesy of Martin & Sicilia
Martin & Sicilia Paraíso, 2010 Installation. Acrylic on cut wood 3’40 x 10 x 10 m Depósito Martín & Sicilia – Colección TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Tenerife
have also evolved, resulting in more complex, multilayered paintings. Their paintings typically feature unusual juxtapositions of time and space, along with rich symbolism in the mirrors, door openings, windows, and reflections that figure throughout. Transitions between one space and another force us to consider notions of time and space and concepts of fiction versus reality. As with the installation works, there is no division between private and public space and it turns out that the intimate issues are highly universal. As with Gurholt, their work is often self-referential. They rewrite their own work by integrating it in new works. Paintings within paintings and paintings within photographs signal their commitment to an ongoing investigation related not only to the limits and possibilities of painting but also to a continual reassessment of their own approach to contemporary art practice. Crispin Gurholt’s approach is equally imbued with strong political undertones and an outward critique of social structures, conveyed in work that is also highly performative and theatrical. Crispin Gurholt’s recent transition to painting involves a conscious, formal investigation that unveils how the specific choice of medium, in this case painting, can drastically affect our perception of the subject matter. Gurholt is best known for his Live Photos; site-specific photography projects where subtle narratives emerge that balance a fine line between fiction and reality. His complex, staged scenes are strongly imbued with art historical, philosophical, and sociological references. Gurholt carefully selects models for his contemporary tableaux vivants. The models are styled, made-up, dressed or undressed, and placed into a very specific visual composition, where they stand still, as if suspended in time, for up to several hours while the audience looks on from the other side of a transparent divider. Despite the physical barrier, the spectators become active participants in the overall experience. We witness a carefully constructed illusion of an imaged reality, a perfectly real fiction. There is a strong sense that something has just happened or is about to happen. While the staged scenes take place within a very specific and limited timeframe, the Live Photo project lives on in photography and film. In the transition from photography and film, to painting Gurholt distances us even further from the original tableau vivant. Both theoretically and formally these paintings are a valuable and logical addition to the entire Live Photo project. Gurholt’s photographs and films have often been interpreted as the unique result of his formal education as a painter, so it is interesting to see what happens when the Live Photo works are reinterpreted as paintings. Gurholt’s first painting is a recreation of Stand 21, Copenhagen, and a comparison between the two works reveals a fascinating change. In the painting, the provocative, threatening undertone vanishes completely as the tough, hooded gangsters of the photograph are seemingly transformed into monks. The violence and anger of the original scene has given way to an overall serenity and beauty. With the stroke of a paintbrush our perception of reality is completely changed. The same elements that make Gurholt’s Live Photo project so captivating also make these paintings particularly powerful and relevant. The complexity of the subject matter, his keen understanding of classical composition, and his ability to capture and convey the relationships and hierarchies between the models as powerful reflections of contemporary society all make his work resonate, whether the medium is performance, photography, film, or painting. When translated to the language of painting, the meanings and possible interpretations are expanded. As Gurholt explains the process: “Film and photography are more reductive, and perhaps therefore my approach is more distanced, cool, clean, and controlled. Painting is more expansive, and the process itself is typically more messy and emotional. These are subtle differences that I enjoy investigating and challenging through my work, so it
Crispin Gurholt Stand 21, Copenhagen Live Photo # 11, 2006 C-print, face mounted 155 x 124 cm Crispin Gurholt Et in Arcadia Ego, 2012 Oil on canvas 185 x 256 cm
Crispin Gurholt Mother and Son, 2012 (work in progress) Oil on canvas 185 x 256 cm
Crispin Gurholt Ved Ekeberg책sen Live Photo # 20, 2011 C-print, face mounted 200 x 291 cm
Crispin Gurholt The Wanderers, 2012 (work in progress) Oil on canvas 185 x 256 cm
Wangechi Mutu Humming, 2010 Mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar 217.2 x 192.4 x 2.5 cm Photo David Regen © Wangechi Mutu Courtesy Bert Kreuk Collection Wangechi Mutu Three Huggers, 2010 Mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar 235 x 137.2 x 2.5 cm © Wangechi Mutu Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
is particularly interesting for me to discover that I can actually expand the story through painting and also discover unexpected layers of meaning.”5 These are convincing examples of the triumph of the expressive power of painting, and this significant transition brings Crispin Gurholt’s work to a new level, anchoring his highly conceptual work into an expanded formal framework that increases the relevance of his work. Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan-born artist who lives and works in New York City, expresses social critique from a distinctly feminist perspective. Her exquisite, politically thoughtful works are perhaps best described as beautiful/ugly. The sumptuous, almost jewel-like details are downright gorgeous, while the figures themselves are often twisted, cut-up, fragmented, severed, and even scarified. Surreal proportions and unnatural juxtapositions add tension and depth to her intricate compositions. Mixed media works on mylar have become emblematic for Mutu, as well as her characteristic collage technique that also infiltrates her paintings. Odili Donald Odita sums up Wangechi Mutu’s work beautifully in his essay about her work in a recently published catalogue:
5. Ibid., page 58.
“Mutu speaks to the representation of the African body as a mythological trope torn apart throughout history. And yet to look again at her heroine is to also see an image of strength, of undying female power, which emanates from this form despite its trials of physical and psychic abuse. In the depic-
Wangechi Mutu Root of All Eves, 2010 Mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar 233.7 x 135.3 cm ÂŠ Wangechi Mutu Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels Wangechi Mutu Oh, Madonna!, 2010 Mixed media ink, paint, collage on Mylar 222.3 x 137.2 cm ÂŠ Wangechi Mutu Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
Mehretu’s most obvious sources of inspiration include architectural drawings. Recently, sports and military topologies have been added to her repertoire. Sports architecture is understood as a strong symbol of various social hierarchies, specifically related to notions of exclusion and participation. Throughout Mehretu’s work, architecture is used as a metaphor for other issues: colonialism, power structures, intersocial relations, notions of inside and outside, the relation between the public and private realms, as well as the spatial definition of various social hierarchies. This includes processes of domination, oppression, and disempowerment that are defined by architecture. Her paintings resemble topographical maps, and with the gradual addition of non-architectural features such as fire, smoke, flags, and other colorful abstractions, her work is more complex and engaging than ever. Fresh Paint features a few of Julie Mehretu’s large-scale paintings, and includes the central work Looking Back to a Bright New Future (2003). Cay Sophie Rabinowitz’s description of this particular work sums up many of the most important aspects of Mehretu’s work:
Julie Mehretu Renegade Delerium, 2002 Ink and acrylic on canvas 228.6 x 365.7 cm Image Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
“For this painting, concerned with the subject matter of (political) independence, its forms and consequences, Mehretu decided to begin working by revisiting an earlier one, a large-scale, colorless panting, where swirling shaded areas and moody forms emerge out of decrepit and dysfunctional plazas, amphitheaters, archways, colonnades, stadiums, and arenas. Her juxtaposition of historical public spaces and structures built to embody (often imaginary) social ideals or unify the masses around dissent coexist with competing figurative and fictional elements to defy any attempt to place limits or frames on experience. By retracing significant historical edifices of collective political expression from one painting to the next, Mehretu revises and updates her pictorial vision through a return to an already outmoded subject.”7
tion of this body as vibrant, and heroically cinematic in its representation, the artist touches upon our fascination with, and brings to light our most dormant and subliminal fears concerning, this body . . . Mutu’s work examines and addresses the all-encompassing misunderstanding of beauty as a power that has informed this body’s existence throughout time. Her critical intervention delves deep, moving past body and skin, into an inner spectacle that is female subject-hood.”6
6. Wangechi Mutu, edited by David Moos, Art Gallery of Ontario, page 33.
Wangechi Mutu’s work stands as a riveting account of the distortions and inequities of Africa, interpreted from a feminist perspective, within a postcolonial context. Her works seduce us with their beauty only to repel us with the harsh cry of colonialism and other injustices. Overall, Mutu’s multilayered works resonate on many levels, both formally and conceptually. The objectification, marginalization, and abuse of black African females in particular runs throughout her work. She attacks typical stereotypes about Africa and African culture, providing us with iconic imagery that is as scintillatingly beautiful as it is disturbing. An underlying double entendre adds additional impact to the somber message; the manipulation, scarification, marking, mutilation, and deconstruction of the figures in her collagelike paintings is understood as a reference to the real-life horrors inflicted upon African females throughout history. These visually captivating works evoke the hypocrisy of Western domination, not only from a colonial context, but as it also continues today. Julie Mehretu is another artist whose work is visually mesmerizing with strong political undertones. Mehretu is renowned for her large-scale paintings and drawings where architecture is deconstructed, fragmented, overlapped, and reconstructed resulting in intricate maps that are more political than orientational.
Beyond the immediate visual appeal of her intricate, architecturally inspired visual language, Mehretu’s work resonates on a highly theoretical level. A lecture given by Michel Foucault in 1967, “Of Other Spaces,” provides valuable insight in relation to the geopolitical underpinnings of Julie Mehretu’s work. In this famous lecture, Foucault argued against the traditional notion of linear time, asserting that concepts of time have been understood in various ways, under different historical circumstances. His theory relates to an understanding of space and spaces over time. He spoke at length about two types of space—utopias and heterotopias. A utopia is understood as an unreal, imagined space (such as Italo Calvino’s imaginary cities). In contrast, a heterotopia is a real space that is simultaneously mythic and real (such as a sports stadium). It should be noted that Julie Mehretu doesn’t implement architectural language simply as a metaphor about space. She is specifically interested in space as it relates to power. Nonetheless, Foucault’s words are relevant to Julie Mehretu’s work:
7. Julie Mehretu, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon. 2006 Quoted from Cay Sophie Rabinowitz’s essay “Mehretu’s Explorations of the Arcadian Enigma,” page 22. 8. From Michel Foucault’s 1967 lecture “Of Other Spaces,” reprinted in Diacritics, spring issue, 1986, page 22.
“We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.”8 Julie Mehretu’s works are easily interpreted as utopian or heterotopian visual maps, where notions of simultaneity and juxtaposition are central unifying factors that
Julie Mehretu Mumbo Jumbo, 2008 Ink and acrylic on canvas 152.4 x 213.3 cm Image Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Julie Mehretu Looking Back to a Bright New Future, 2003 Ink and acrylic on canvas 241.3 x 302.2 cm Image Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Julie Mehretu Arcade, 2005 Ink and acrylic on canvas 213.3 x 304.8 cm Image Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Steinar Jakobsen Drift III, 2012 Oil on aluminum 49 x 63 cm Image Courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
9. Douglas Crimp, Pictures, as featured in Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, The New Museum of Contemporary Art and David R. Godine, Boston, 1984, page 181.
bring architecture, space, line, form, color, and different notions of time together into paradoxical structures that are both distanced and accessible, logical and chaotic, public and private. At the visual intersection between all these opposing factors we can decipher endless possible meanings as quickly as they might disappear into a completely different trajectory on the exact same canvas. We find ourselves looking back to the future, and this is precisely what makes Mehretu’s work as meaningful as it is formally appealing. On a completely different note, Steinar Jakobsen’s work exists on the edge of painting and photography, embracing both without fully committing to either. One can easily compare Jakobsen’s early work with Gerhard Richter’s figurative photobased paintings. All the classic elements are present; these paintings are typically rendered in blurry, washed out black and white, or some other two-tone color variation, resulting in beautiful, glossy, formally oriented paintings. Partying and rock concerts are among the recurrent themes, executed with virtuoso skill and careful attention to the effects of each and every brush stroke. At the time, Jakobsen was just warming up. It didn’t take long before he found his own rhythm, which led him towards a strong signature style that is completely his own. While Steinar Jakobsen’s works are undoubtedly paintings in the strictest sense of the term, considering them as pictures in the Crimpian sense, and even going so far as to analyze the photographic aspects of his paintings is quite rewarding. In fact, certain parts of Douglas Crimp’s seminal essay “Pictures” reads like a wordfor-word description of Jakobsen’s recent work: “Like ordinary snapshots, they appear to be fragments; unlike those snapshots, their fragmentation is not that of the natural continuum, but of a syntagmatic sequence, that is, of a conventional, segmented temporality. They are like quotations from the sequence of frames that constitute the narrative flow of film. Their sense of narrative is one of its simultaneous presence and absence, a narrative ambience stated but not fulfilled.”9 Written in regards to Cindy Sherman’s early Film Stills, these words accurately describe what plays out in Jakobsen’s recent paintings. The comparison to film stills alone is noteworthy, but it is the notion of fragmentation and segmented temporality that really sums up Jakobsen’s particular approach. The fact that these paintings are executed in a fairly small format, to be presented together in large, sequential groupings, only heightens the already significant link not only to photography but also to film stills. For quite some time we have been well aware of the photographic sources of inspiration for Jakobsen’s paintings. However, the subtle, barely discernable transition to more focused, concise, time-based narratives signals a crucial shift, reflecting the more confident work of an artist who has liberated himself from some of the limitations of painting a picture of a picture. In the process, he has managed to embrace both painting and photography in a completely bold and unapologetic way that gives his painting even more depth and impact. In his newest works Steinar Jakobsen navigates the jagged line between form and content without sacrificing one for the other. The subject matter is more focused
Steinar Jakobsen Crystal, 2011 Oil on aluminum 113 x 150 cm Image Courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
Steinar Jakobsen Pink Floyd, 2011 Oil on aluminum 150 x 180 cm Image Courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
Javier Barilaro Que nunca nos falte un verano, 2007 acrylic on canvas and collage of acrylic on canvas and papers 300 x 200 cm
than ever before, with an underlying creepiness throughout that overrides the potential romanticism of some of the works. These scenes from everyday life have a more edgy, unsettling quality to them than previous works. His street scenes feature the seediest parts of urban nightlife—places where hookers, drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals hang out. With respect and compassion for his subjects, he gives them humanity, grace, beauty, and dignity. While he has captured many subjects in completely unattractive states before, until now it was more along the lines of Edvard Munch’s The Day After. His new works bring to mind the likes of David Lynch and Nan Goldin. Steinar Jakobsen’s coupling of unsettling subject matter with beautiful visual details is somewhat similar to Wangechi Mutu’s approach. Jakobsen has never shied away from formal experimentation, nor is he afraid of implementing beauty in his work. Just as the shimmering jewel-like details in Mutu’s work seduce us only to subsequently hit us with unsettling and even horrific topics, Jakobsen also delivers beauty that bites. There is abstract, poetic beauty in the way that he prepares the surfaces, using a combination of various chemicals and car paint to create abstract patterns that he subsequently paints pictures on. Argentinean artist Javier Barilaro approaches painting from an entirely different perspective. Barilaro is a true painter in the traditional sense, but his work is anything but mainstream. As proficient as he is at painterly technique, his projects typically question traditional barriers between high and low. Barilaro embraces popular visual language in paintings and murals that not only question certain aspects of contemporary painting, but also challenge various preconceptions related to contemporary art practice, in work that also emphasizes the conceptual relevance of painting as a medium. Javier Barilaro is a rebel with a cause, and almost everything about his work reads as an attack against conformity. Many of his works feature map formations filled with a combination of text and image conveyed in a rainbow of colors. These are
Javier Barilaro YguazĂş [means in guaranĂ aguas grandes, great waters], 2010 Pastels, acrylic, and gouache and cardboard and canvas on canvas 300 x 200 cm
Javier Barilaro Mapamundi, 2009 installation of paintings (acrylic and gouache and collage on canvas on wood) and sculptures (made with cardboard and objects) 1100 x 300 cm approx
Javier Barilaro Sudamerica y Antártida [southamerica and antarctica, detail of "Mapamundi", 2009] collage of acrylic on canvas over acrylic on canvas on wood, installated in the atelier, variable dimensions (sudamerica, 160 x 70 cm approx)
Carlos Huffmann Installation view, 2012
become his signature style. In 2003, at the same time that he co-founded Eloisa Cartonera, he started making “anti-posters,” reminiscent of the flashy cumbia posters that announce cumbia dance events in Colombia and other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. He used the cumbia visual language and style of text to convey ideas that were important to him as an artist. Barilaro embraces popular culture, not to critique it or analyze it, but to revel in its mass-produced artificiality. Collage technique is an equally important aspect of Javier Barilaro’s paintings. Having noticed the visual effect of these overlapping event posters, and their inevitable decay, he started to copy that artificial chaos in his studio, painting posters separately and then breaking them down and lapping them together, as if they had been exposed to the streets. Since childhood Barilaro has been more interested in drawing maps and letters instead of people and objects, and it turned out that cutting pieces of paper into irregularly shaped islands evolved into a strong visual expression of mapping. He found it interesting to investigate the opportunities found within these continental collages that also capture the chaos of communication. With the confidence of a graphic designer, and the convictions of a political idealist, Barilaro crafts bright, multi-colored paintings effectively challenging notions of high vs. low, and shouting out against conformity. His works map out an artistic terrain that is anything but black and white, full of underlying social and political innuendo. Carlos Huffmann also embraces popular culture, as seen in his “magazine interventions” featured in Fresh Paint. Huffmann uses sleek car magazine imagery as the starting point for his high-octane works. Rather than tearing the pages out of the magazines, he opens up each magazine to create an artistic centerfold that is then hung within a large-scale grid. While each magazine tells its own visual story and can be interpreted separately, the shared underlying themes create a strong,
not directional maps, they are paintings shaped in the form of recognizable landmasses, ranging from South America to Cuba or the bordering region between Argentina and Brazil. As an avid cumbia enthusiast, his works resonate to the beat of cumbia music with strong political undertones. Text is a significant part of Javier Barilaro’s art, whether he is working individually on paintings and murals, or painting one-of-a-kind cardboard covers for the Eloisa Cartonera project. He acknowledges that he has always been interested both in literature and visual art, which is why he found it necessary to integrate text into his work. He explains that neither writing without images nor visual images without a literary aspect were enough on their own. Coupled with his background in communication and graphic design, these various impulses all contributed to what has
Carlos Huffmann Untitled (attack), 2009 Acrylic and ballpoint pen on magazine 45 x 35 cm
Carlos Huffmann Untitled (emirates), 2009 Acrylic and ballpoint pen on magazine 45 x 35 cm
Carlos Huffmann Untitled (prada), 2009 Acrylic and ballpoint pen on magazine 45 x 35 cm
Carlos Huffmann Untitled (romanticismo), 2009 Acrylic and ballpoint pen on magazine 45 x 35 cm
unified whole. This work is linked to Huffmann’s investigation of the power of mass media to invade the private mind of the individual, expressed in explosive, enigmatic scenes where bodies and landscapes fuse into creatures and forms that habitate the twilight zone between science fiction and reality. Huffmann fully embraces commercial imagery and transforms it to pictures that are sometimes humorous, often disturbing, and invariably linked to a dreamlike world of fantasy. Huffmann hereby creates a visual and theoretical antidote to the presumably vapid world of car design and glossy advertising, painting over the cars, trucks, and motorcycles with texts, philosophical references, theoretical proclamations, and surreal imagery. An ideal balance between photographic imagery and painting is achieved in works that speak more about the visual medium of advertising than it does about photography or painting per se. Hence the term “magazine interventions,” as these painted magazines are part of an act of artistic intervention, where advertising, science fiction, painting, photography, text, theory, and message are equally significant parts of the whole. Carlos Huffmann transforms commercially stylized car imagery that celebrates technology and speed as an expression of modernity and personal freedom, in unsettling scenarios of violence and destruction. Some of the scenarios seem straight out of Mad Max, with monsters, wolves, and dismembered bodies set against futuristic super vehicles. Other characters and references include the high-testosterone world of videogames, the violence of horror movies, and other nightmarish details. His fascination with horror is not without theoretical grounding, including an interest in surrealism, particularly within the wider context of contemporary art. Huffmann counts Paul McCarthy among his most important influences, and admires the surreal aspects of Mike Kelly and Paul McCarthy’s work. Huffmann is also interested in Guattari and Deleuze’s theory about capitalism and schizophrenia, relying on aspects of their critical psychology in work that investigates social, psychological, and political power structures. Cristiano Pintaldi’s approach to painting is extremely methodical and scientific. Using only red, green, and blue to arrive at a full-color pixilated painting, he starts with a blackened canvas, spray painting one color at a time into precisely perforated holes that cover the canvas, finishing thousands of dots before he moves on to the next color. With the precision of a scientist he spends hours and hours working on compositions without being able to see how the image is developing. It’s almost like painting in the dark, except that he knows exactly what he is doing. As with many of the artists in Fresh Paint, the subject matter of Pintaldi’s paintings is inspired both by tradition and popular culture. References range from art history and religion to cartoons, movies, and science fiction. He grabs our attention just as the television does, ultimately offering much more in return for our time. Pintaldi makes use of immediately recognizable iconic images that have become so familiar as to be depleted of their original meaning and significance. The Pope, American Presidents, the Twin Towers on 9-11, Hollywood movie stars and candy-colored cartoon characters are among his subjects of choice, while his reverence for art history is also evident. Politics, religion, the forces of nature, belief in aliens, and the power of destruction have become the recurring topics of Pintaldi’s supersize paintings, and give his work relevance beyond his ability to paint a flashy picture. Pintaldi’s best works embrace the most classical forms of painting, an aspect that is reflected in the paintings selected for Fresh Paint. These works are linked to religious iconography and traditional landscape painting, signaling a play with tradition to break with tradition. These paintings also relate to notions of power, power structures, and belief systems, themes that run throughout Pintaldi’s work. The significance of this particular choice of subject matter is summed up in his description of painting lightning: “Lightning is an instant that can’t be halted or represented. It’s
Cristiano Pintaldi Untitled, 2008 Acrylic on canvas 110 x 155 cm Private Collection Courtesy the artist
Cristiano Pintaldi Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 195 x 320 cm Private Collection Photo Maria Enquist
Cristiano Pintaldi Untitled, 2005 Acrylic on canvas 180 x 270 cm Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporaneadi Trento e Rovereto, VAF-Stiftung Collection Courtesy the artist
pages 60-61: Patricia Claro 14:27’47’’, 2011 Oil on linen 115 x 210 cm
Cristiano Pintaldi Untitled, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 195 x 320 cm Private Collection Photo Maria Enquist
10. Cristiano Pintaldi, Charta, Milan, 2002, page 21. 11. Cristiano Pintaldi, Lucid Dreams La Biennale di Venezia, Silvana Editoriale, Milan, 2011.
Quoted from an interview with Antonia Alampi and Anna Simone, page 1. 12. James Elkins, What Painting Is, Routeledge Press, London, 1999, page 9.
a television ‘frame,’ but it’s also a symbol of God that falls to earth from the sky.”10 The existential, philosophical, and religious themes addressed throughout his work give Pintaldi’s paintings depth that reaches far beyond the surface of the pixilated television screens that his paintings mimic. Formally speaking, Cristiano Pintaldi considers himself closest to Seurat, particularly in terms of his obsessive study of color. He says: “Even though our conceptual aims are different—he used painting to experiment with the vision’s scientific theories, whereas I apply these theories to establish a concept and create a symbol.”11 Pintaldi goes on to explain that images interest him as symbols, and he chooses images capable of revealing key points for understanding the “whole.” As seen in Fresh Paint, this adds up to an expression of the force of different powers, whether natural, political, or religious; timeless issues that Pintaldi translates into iconic, contemporary paintings. He describes what he does as a kind of alchemy, an idea that also relates to Patricia Claro’s paintings. Patricia Claro’s realist landscape paintings are related to an intense and time-consuming study of water and its characteristics. Claro’s highly scientific high-tech approach to painting is a perfect example of James Elkins’s theory that painting is alchemy, and a painter’s role is that of an alchemist. In his groundbreaking book What Paint Is, he compares artists’ thorough knowledge of the substance of painting (regardless of what it represents pictorially, and regardless of art historical references), how paints can be mixed and what happens when they come in contact with other materials, to alchemy. He states that: “Artists become expert in distinguishing between gloss and wetness—and they do so without knowing how they do it, or how chemicals create their effects.”12 Although it is quite clear that Claro knows precisely what she is doing, this observation bears relevance in relation to her skillful approach to capturing the reflection of light, wind, and other atmospheric conditions on the surface of water. Patricia Claro’s stunningly beautiful paintings are far more than a contemporary twist on romantic landscape painting. Underneath the glossy, shimmering surfaces of her paintings, we find depth and conceptual meaning. It turns out that these paintings aren’t landscapes in the traditional sense, they are something as paradoxically simple and complex as the concept of time made visible. She captures the notion of temporality by first filming the flow of water over an extended period of time. In what could be interpreted as a subtle tribute to Monet, she films variations in light intensity during the course of a day, also revealing the various changes that naturally occur to water due to changing atmospheric conditions. The sequence of images that are captured within the film give a sense of endless continuity, or even infinity. The temporality of a particular moment, as represented in each single painting, stands in contrast to the notion of the eternal flow of water. Symbolically, a river is an apt metaphor relating to the passage of time. The evanescent, endlessly changing patterns and reflections in the water are difficult to capture, and even harder to recreate, which is precisely what makes these glossy paintings shine so brightly. The paintings featured in Fresh Paint represent a sequence of four images from the same place. The final paintings capture moments that are only seconds apart, although the visual differences are tremendous. With these paintings, Claro reveals not only the various qualities of water; she does so in a way that evokes its transparency, lucidity, and reflective qualities, far beyond the wetness and glossiness that Elkins had in mind. With the aid of contemporary technology, using video instead of the more standard photography, Claro brings landscape painting into a contemporary timeframe and frame of reference. One could spend a considerable amount of time delving beneath the surface of her works to decipher the scientific aspects, including the physics of wave patterns, advanced mathematics, and scientific questions relating
Patricia Claro Recodo, 2007 Oil on linen 150 x 210 cm
Patricia Claro Re-Corte 4, 2008 Oil on linen 130 x 180 cm
Patricia Claro 18:06’23’’, 2011 Oil on linen 80 x 180 cm
Patricia Claro Another Landscape III, 2009 Oil on linen 60 x 125 cm
to how the human eye perceives the travel of light through space. While these are all highly relevant aspects of her work, the power of these paintings is far more visceral, related not so much to the formal practice of painting as it is to notions of evanescence and the passing of time. In contrast to Patricia Claro’s high-tech approach to painting, Kerry James Marshall stands out as a timeless old school painter with more contemporary appeal than ever. Marshall’s earliest works are as fresh today as when he first painted them. Although Marshall has remained faithful to the traditional means of figurative painting throughout his career, his works continue to have contemporary significance and impact. Among my absolute favorite works is De Style, 1993. Painted almost two decades ago, this painting evokes the timelessness of Marshall’s colorful, richly symbolic, collage-like approach to painting. His sharp and witty interpretations of AfricanAmerican identity are as important today as works by some of the younger AfricanAmerican art stars that have followed in his footsteps, including Kehinde Wiley. The “cool cats” and self-proclaimed stud in De Style are equal parts hip-hop and dandy—conveying a distinct stylishness expressed in a visual language that is as indebted to European Art History (Manet) and Western African portrait photography (Seydou Keita) as it is to American street culture, where Nike is the reigning God. Marshall eloquently describes the importance of this stylishness in his own words: “Black people occupy a space, even mundane spaces, in the most fascinating ways. Style is such an integral part of what black people do that just walking is not a simple thing. You’ve got to walk with style. You’ve got to talk with a certain rhythm; you’ve got to do things with some flair. And so in the paintings I try to enact that same tendency towards the theatrical that seems to be so integral a part of the black cultural body.”13 13. Calvin Reed, “Kerry James Marshall,” Bomb, winter 1998.
Through the years, Kerry James Marshall has developed an unmistakable signature style, described by Terrie Sultan as “the highly stylized black persona, drawn as
Kerry James Marshall De Style, 1993 Mixed media on canvas 276.8 x 304.8 cm Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Kerry James Marshall Souvenir II, 1997 Acrylic, collage, and glitter on unstretched canvas banner 274.3 x 396.2 cm The Addison Gallery of Art, Andover Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Kerry James Marshall Watts 1963, 1995 Acrylic/collage on canvas 289.5 x 342.9 cm St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Barkley L. Hendricks Icon for my Man Superman (Superman Never Saved Any Black People-Bobby Seale), 1969 Oil, acrylic and aluminum leaf on linen canvas 151.1 cm x 121.9 cm Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
14. Terrie Sultan’s essay “This Is the Way We Live,” from Kerry James Marshall, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 2000, page 12. 15. From an unpublished interview with Kerry James Marshall conducted by Colin Gardner, Los Angeles, July–August 1984, cited in Kerry James Marshall, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 2000, page 12. 16. Birth of the Cool, exhibition catalogue, Nasher Museum at Duke University, Trevor Schoonmaker, page 20. 17. Ibid., page 25.
much as brushed in pure black paint, whose features are barely discernable, except for gleaming white eyes and teeth.”14 Marshall decided early on that whenever he would paint an image of a person, it would always be a black image, and that image wouldn’t be a personality so much as it would be an image that spoke directly to the issue of blackness.15 Returning again to the importance of style in Marshall’s work, the highly stylized portrait series Lost Boys, 1993–1995, features adolescent boys dressed in street clothes surrounded by halos and decorative backgrounds, foreshadowing Kehinde Wiley’s equally iconic work. There is beauty and poetic justice in the fact that this legendary artist who set out to create a visual narrative that both included and empowered African Americans not only succeeded, but also inspired a younger generation to follow his lead. By coupling black stereotypes with humor, conveying his message with virtuoso technique and singular style, he not only challenges various stereotypes, but secures himself an important position in the dominant narrative of contemporary art practice. Equally as timeless as Marshall’s work, Barkley L. Hendricks’s paintings are possibly the coolest works imaginable within any era. In an exhibition where freshness is key, Icon for My Man Superman, 1969, shines brightly. It has everything one could hope for in a powerful contemporary painting: style, substance, and flash coupled with strong political undertones. No wonder Hendricks’s work has also become a source of inspiration for some of the hottest younger artists today, including Chris Offili, Kehinde Wiley, and Jeff Sonhouse. His iconic portraits stand out in their grandeur, with a sumptuousness and attention to detail similar to Renaissance masters. What Benozzo Gozzoli did for members of the Medici family, Hendricks does for the hip acquaintances and friends who are the recurring subjects of his portraits. Similar to most of the artists in Fresh Paint, Hendricks’s work is inspired by tradition, without being anchored down by that weight. From the first time Hendricks traveled to Europe on a scholarship in the 1960s, he was exposed to the likes of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, two artists whose work captivated him and continue to inspire him. The traces of Hendricks’s admiration for these masters are visible throughout his work. Hendricks’s theatricality alone is a powerful link to Caravaggio’s stylized, exaggerated style, while Hendricks’s virtuoso realist approach to portraiture is in the spirit of Rembrandt. With the talent of a master painter and an eye for style comparable to a high fashion photographer, Barkley creates cool, ethereal portraits that capture the individual presence and attitude of his subjects. Hendricks began to gain serious attention for his work in the early 1970s, although as he puts it: ”As was the case for most African-American artists at the time, largescale mainstream, commercial success was harder to come by.”16 It’s important to keep in mind that true-to-life portrayals of African-American culture really stood out at the time. Trevor Schoonmaker, the global expert on Hendricks, sums his work up neatly: “His portraits are unique in that they are neither clinically rendered photorealist representations nor culturally idealized or romantic images. Rather, they are tightly rendered and emotionally stirring, honest portraits of everyday people—his family, friends, associates, students, and local characters from the neighborhood.”17 Fresh Paint features some fabulous examples of Hendricks’s work, including Roaring River Apostle (Serious Smoker Series), 2004. The intense personality of the subject is conveyed in a direct, almost confrontational style with enough interesting details to capture our interest. As we try to decipher the highly symbolic details throughout the work the subject almost seems to laugh in our face. In this painting Hendricks embraces every single stereotype related to Jamaican Rasta culture, blowing sweet smoke right back at us with an irreverence and humor that makes the painting glow. The detail of Bob Marley catching a fire, featured on a mass-produced t-shirt, and the rainbow colored background executed a few calculated shades shy of a Rasta flag, both ensure that the irony can’t possibly be missed.
Barkley L. Hendricks Roaring River Apostle (Serious Smoker Series), 2004 Oil on canvas, handmade frame (by artist) 182.8 x 101.6 cm Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York Barkley L. Hendricks Lawdy Mama, 1969 Oil and gold leaf on linen and canvas 136.5 x 92 cm Image Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Kehinde Wiley The World Stage: Brazil Anderson S. da Fonesca, 2009 Oil on canvas 121.9 x 91.4 cm Private Collection, Italy Image courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California
This work epitomizes how Hendricks’s painterly skill is coupled with humor, subtle irony, and a healthy dose of rebelliousness that serves to question and challenge all kinds of preconceived notions and stereotypes. These are images of empowerment, and if you don’t get the message, the joke is on you. As suggested earlier, there are a number of contemporary artists, portrait painters in particular, whose work is highly indebted to the work of Barkley L. Hendricks, and Kehinde Wiley is among the most striking examples. Trevor Schoonmaker’s comparison between the work of Hendricks and Wiley sheds light on some of the most important links between the two: “Wiley’s work—with its full frontal concentration on black bodies—is by default socially engaged. His portraits are also evidence of a social engagement that is perhaps more thoroughly of the moment, hinting at an artistic project bigger than painting. In Wiley’s paintings, the gaze of young black boys in popular garb is sometimes filled with cunning desire, though usually the gaze is more the projection of the mask, covering their inner lives. Like the paintings of Hendricks, Wiley’s work has found a home in the consciousness of a black familiar by intertwining the classical and the contemporary.”18
18. Ibid., page 82.
While Hendricks typically depicts his subjects before sold swathes of monochromatic color, Wiley features his subjects before ornate, decorative backgrounds. The flowery patterns provide a strong visual counterpoint for the well-trained urban youths throughout the work. The prominence and use of fabric-inspired patterns is a powerful decorative device that also brings to mind Yinka Shonibare’s politically charged use of African fabrics. As with Hendricks before him, Wiley is also visibly inspired by masters such as Caravaggio. Fresh Paint features a selection of five works from the World Stage series, including portraits from Brazil, Africa, China, India, and Israel. For this ongoing project, Kehinde Wiley sets up satellite studios around the world, finding models in each location, casting them right from the city streets. For the Brazil series he found his subjects in Rio, going beyond the glittering beaches into the favela of Vidigal. While it would have been easy to find attractive youths along the beach of Ipanema, Wiley was interested in exposing himself to the gritty, dangerous, and poor heart of the city, where he found a mix of striking and handsome youths with both attitude and presence. In general, important sources of inspiration for Wiley include art history, as seen in the stylized, mannerist poses of many of his subjects. In Rio he also found inspiration in the statues and monuments found throughout the city. Throughout these portraits the subjects come across as proud, strong, important, and courageous, exuding the confidence of rap stars or top athletes, fashionably confident in their street wear as if they were real dandies. Kehinde Wiley fully embraces the methods of traditional portraiture, while simultaneously taking a giant step from tradition by changing key aspects of the visual language, ultimately changing everything in the translation. Wiley has not only picked up the brush after Kerry James Marshall and Barkley L. Hendricks, he has continued with his own investigation and deconstruction of art history, creating an inclusive narrative that speaks not only on behalf of Africans and African Americans, but men all over the world who have traditionally been left out of the Western art historical canon. Wiley sums up the essence of this work in his own words: “The World Stage is comprised of what I believe are countries on the conversation block in the twenty-first century. Many of the reasons why I choose certain sites have to do with a level of curiosity, but it also has to do with their broader, global, political importance, strategically for America, and the world community at large. One of the reasons I chose Brazil, Nigeria, India, and China is that these are all the points of anxiety and curiosity and production that are going on in the world that are
Kehinde Wiley The World Stage: Israel Alios Itzhak II 2011 Oil on canvas 76.2 x 55.9 cm Private Collection, Golden Beach, Florida Image courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California
Kehinde Wiley The World Stage: India Female Fellah, 2010 Oil on canvas 114.3 x 91.4 cm Image courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Elizabeth Peyton Christopher (Owens, after Hedi Slimane), 2, 2012 Monotype on handmade paper 46.4 x 36.2 cm Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
Elizabeth Peyton Christopher (Owens, after Hedi Slimane), 1, 2012 Monotype on handmade paper 46.4 x 36.2 cm Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York
changing the way we see empire.”19 Kehinde Wiley has carved an important niche for himself by relying on his virtuoso technique and illusionistic skill, coupled with just the right amount of ornamentation. His iconic contemporary portraits are as important to contemporary art practice as they are empowering images of the subjects he chooses to paint. As an artist who is skeptical of the ability of the written-word to add any kind of insight to her work, it is with utmost humility and respect that I take on the task of contextualizing Elizabeth Peyton’s participation in Fresh Paint. If I were to follow her lead, it would read something like this:
19. Kehinde Wiley’s explanation of The World Stage series as featured on his website, www.kehindewiley.com.
http://youtu.be/2jmf9UQ3YIs (Verve, “History”) http://youtu.be/R2poqYvWsyU (Oasis, “Live Forever”) http://youtu.be/hhxnITSQE8g (James Iha, “Lover Lover”) http://youtu.be/DqgXzPfAxjo (Pulp, “Common People”) http://youtu.be/hTWKbfoikeg (Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) It’s perfectly understandable that Peyton might see more value in linking music to
her work than giving in to complex, wordy explanations. A few of her favorite musicians have become regular subjects in her art, so what better way to contextualize her work than to reference the music and the musicians that her work so often relates to? If you are interested in knowing the stories behind the thin, pale, and beautiful hipsters of her portraits, the young individuals with ruby red lips and milky-white luminescent skin, you could simply look at her pictures and listen to the music. This would certainly add an interesting dimension to the portraits of Jarvis Cocker, Liam and Noel Gallagher, but you would be missing out on a lot if you stopped here. Peyton started gaining attention in New York in the early 1990s, debuting with a series of solo exhibitions in non-gallery settings including The Hotel Chelsea in New York, an apartment in Cologne, and the bar of The Prince Albert in London. This was a clever way of questioning cultural hierarchies and notions of public versus private, high versus low. While musicians do play a leading role in her work, her subjects also include sportsmen, actors, artists, and friends, as well as historical and literary characters. All subjects are created equal in Elizabeth Peyton’s work. As she explains it: “There is no separation for me between people I know through their music or photos and someone I know personally. The way I perceive them is very similar, in that
Brad Kahlhamer Porcupine So.Dak Vs the Jeev, 2009 Oil on canvas 162 x 130 cm Image Courtesy of Andréhn, Schiptjenko, Stockholm
20. Quoted from The Whitney Biennial 2004 exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum of Art, New York, and Steidl, Göttingen, 2004, page 224. 21. Brad Kahlhamer, Deitch Projects, New York, and Edizione Charta, Milan, 2007, page 29.
there’s no difference between certain qualities that I find inspiring in them.”20 Peyton’s small, intimate images of both public figures and personal friends are more about painting than unveiling dark secrets about these individuals. While there is an undeniable aura of mystery surrounding her subjects, the real power lies not in their stardom, but in their presence, their stylishness, and in the romantic qualities typically associated with fragile poetic types. The power lies within Peyton’s fingertips, as it should for any self-respecting painter committed to portraiture. While we can almost hear the music in the background, and with a stretch of the imagination might even be able to jump to the conclusion that we are catching a glimpse into lives of some of these stars, what Peyton offers us is far more distanced, more careful and measured than a straightforward portrait of a single subject or persona. Elizabeth Peyton captures an overall mood that is as diffuse, evanescent, and painful as it is celebratory, timeless, and delicately beautiful. Equally as interested in world history, art history, and literature as she is musically aware, she is invariably tuned in to the unique and even peculiar beauty of particular individuals whom she either knows or admires. The star-struck readings of her work fail to give Peyton the credit she truly deserves, and denies us access to the real magic, which has little to do with the world of music, and everything to do with humanity in general. While it’s fun trying to figure out who her subjects are, they could just as easily be characters out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned as they are representations of well-known contemporary stars and lesser-known friends. Her formal references run from Matisse via Giacometti through Warhol, grounding her work within a strong art historical context. As with all the artists in Fresh Paint, Peyton works with paint in a direct, unapologetic way that shows just how fresh an inherent respect for tradition can be. Compared to Peyton’s delicate portraits Brad Kahlhamer’s visual language borders on hard-core. American Indians, skulls, rocker chics, prairie girls, and zombielike faces come together in compositions that are far less dark and depressive than one might think. Kahlhamer melds completely different worlds together into works that are both wonderfully naïve and downright scary. Welcome to the world of Brad Kahlhamer, where references to his Midwestern upbringing, his Native American roots, and the contemporary urban world of the Lower East Side, where he lives, works, and also plays in a band, are ever-present. Kahlhamer’s paintings and drawings bring Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations into the dark recesses of CBGB, creating a visual fantasyland where Native Americans take center-stage alongside beautiful Pocahontas-types and urban sex kittens. Kahlhamer refers to his work as a social landscape. The characters that occupy this landscape are real-life angels and devils who both entice and unsettle us. These are strong individuals, with interesting and seemingly provocative stories to tell. There is nothing straightforward or simple about these subjects. Beauty shines through the horror as these individuals pose, mingle, and scream out for attention. Kahlhamer’s all-over compositions read as emotional maps where pain, passion, ecstasy, confusion, desperation, anger, romanticism, humor, and sadness all coexist within the same visual field. The narratives are not entirely clear; similar to vivid, intense dreams or nightmares that are impossible to sum up logically. While the complexity of Kahlhamer’s work demands our full attention, the answers are not necessarily there for the asking, which only makes the works even more interesting. Precise, controlled, repetitive doodling brings to mind an adolescent teenager’s private notebook drawings. In fact, Kahlhamer’s embracement of the adolescent spirit is part of what makes his works so unique. In an interview about his work he quipped: “I try to keep myself at the age of sixteen, when I discovered that preadult life could be very interesting . . . I’m pretty good at that.”21 He’s also pretty good at a lot of other things including drawing, printmaking, painting, handmade sculptural installations, doll making, music, and performance art. Kahlhamer is a quin-
Brad Kahlhamer Cindy Signals Normandie, 2009 Oil on canvas 180 x 180 cm Image Courtesy of Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm
Brad Kahlhamer Topps and the Indians, 2009 Oil on canvas 188 x 178 cm Image Courtesy of Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm
Brad Kahlhamer Topps Platinum, 2011 Oil with ink collage on paper 213.3 x 264.1 cm Image Courtesy of Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm
Brad Kahlhamer Loose Hairs Near the USA, 2009 Ink on paper 60 x 46 cm
Thaddeus Strode All the World Conspires, 2005 Mixed media on canvas 256.5 x 228.5 cm Private Collection Image courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
tessential painter, but he is also dedicated to drawing, and the intermittent scribbles and sketches give his paintings a sense of fragility that counteracts the heaviness. Underlying humor lightens the heavy existential load, typically conveyed in quirky details such as cutesy child-like smiley faces, funny subject matter such as Skull Inside Rainbow and Giant Apache Bride, or nonsensical titles such as PJ Harvey + Enraged Millenial Javellina or Loser and Clark. Regardless of approach, subject matter, or style, all of Kahlhamer’s works are highly personal, emotionally imbued works that convey consistently self-referential narratives. In the case of Brad Kahlhamer, his art and life are completely intertwined; so it makes perfect sense that Kachina dolls, teepees, American Eagles, javellinas, and Western landscapes figure alongside the beauties and the beasts of the urban underground. California surf and skateboard culture meets painting head on in Thaddeus Strode’s work. His art is equally inspired by rock music, literature, film, and comic books as it is solidly anchored both to expressionist painting and popular culture. The bright visual language makes his works immediately accessible, yet they are surprisingly difficult to decipher. These are traditional paintings with contemporary power and relevance that relates as much to the subject matter as technique. Strode’s works are imbued with just the right combination of wit and humor conveyed with enough respect and understanding for the tradition of painting that his technical talent as a painter also shines through. As with many of the artists in Fresh Paint, opposites abound in Thaddeus Strode’s paintings. An incongruous mix of drips, blobs, depth, flatness, text, geometric forms, graffiti, abstraction, and figuration are combined in almost equal parts. Various styles and techniques, leading from expressionism through pop and graffiti, are coupled with an unusual color palette that ranges from bubblegum pink to muddy brown. Strode’s mixing and combining of seemingly conflicting elements is quite similar to a DJ’s approach to music sampling. Strode’s implementation of opposing methods and approaches to painting includes a unique melding of abstraction and figuration, horror and humor, light and dark, happy and angst-ridden that is distinctly his own. In Thaddeus Strode’s psychedelic wonderland teddy bears, comic-book characters, smiling toads and clowns hang out with monsters, cavemen, hillbillies, execution-
Thaddeus Strode 8 Million Ways Slow In/Slow Out, 2005 Mixed media on canvas 221 x 351 cm The Hoff Collection, Oslo Image courtesy of neugerriemschneider, Berlin
Thaddeus Strode Requiem for the Drag Queen (a lullaby), 2007 Mixed media on canvas 240 x 192 cm The Hoff Collection, Oslo Image courtesy of neugerriemschneider, Berlin
Thaddeus Strode The Grid of Shock Stars, 2005 Mixed media on canvas 188 x 274 cm Private Collection Image courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
Sverre Bjertnes Expulsion, 2010 Oil on canvas 170 x 130 cm Image Courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
ers, and ghouls. Rational narratives are difficult to grasp in paintings that defy logical explanation. A more rewarding interpretation would probably be more psychedelic. Strode’s work is far more intriguing, if one doesn’t try to decipher the potential universal, philosophical, personal, or political meaning of every last detail. What a long, strange trip it is to look at Thaddeus Strode’s paintings, but the formal and thematic rewards abound. His work is as colorful and bright as it is complicated and unsettling. There is nothing careful or understated about his iconography, an aspect that gives his work real visual impact. His visual language often borders on the grotesque, which also brings to mind certain surrealist strategies. In fact, the use of surreal visual language has been integral to the resurgence of the grotesque in contemporary art today. More than a few artists in Fresh Paint are part of this trend, with Wangechi Mutu, Carlos Huffmann, Brad Kahlhamer, and Thaddeus Strode as the most striking examples. The aura surrounding Norwegian artist Sverre Bjertnes is deeply entrenched in romantic notions of the troubled artist persona. There is weight, depth, and a sense of melancholy throughout his work. He portrays the heroes of art history and literature, ranging from Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning to John Kerouac and Edgar Allan Poe as icons of suffering, or what he describes as “alcoholic romantics.” While this is very much in the spirit of his background as a classically trained painter, there is far more at play in Bjertnes’s work. The technical skills that Bjertnes learned under the wing of Odd Nerdrum have served him well, but it wasn’t until he really managed to break free from the Nerdrum school, while somehow keeping
Sverre Bjertnes Eric Gill, 2011 Oil on canvas and 10,000 postcards 180 x 260 cm Variable dimensions for the postcards Image Courtesy of Galleri K, Oslo
his traditional toolbox in tact, that his most significant breakthrough took place. In New York, exposure to fellow Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard led to successful collaborations in a strange but perfect match of opposites. In their recent collaborations, Bjertnes’s fragile, poetic style is offset by Melgaard’s angry, provocative, bad-boy approach. If Sverre Bjertnes’s most beautifully executed drawings provide a qualitative alibi for Bjarne Melgaard’s less structured outbursts, Melgaard seems to have injected Bjertnes with a high-dose of rebelliousness, as seen in the more confident, devilmight-care attitude that imbues Bjertnes’s recent work. Eric Gill relates to the kind of creepy subject matter that one has grown to expect in Melgaard’s work, and is also the theme of several collaborative works. For Fresh Paint, Bjertnes goes solo, in a more direct attempt to unveil the gruesome, dark side of Eric Gill—the man most widely known for his invention of the Gill Sans typeface, who also had a sexual relationship with his sister and even his dog. Bjertnes’s fascination with dark, unsettling topics is expressed in work that reaches far beyond our comfort zone. Eric Gill unveils not only the horror, but also the underlying pain and anguish of this controversial creative genius. Bjertnes questions and critiques without moralizing or condemning, and the result is quite moving. Although this work is deeply unsettling and even creepy, Bjertnes’s poetic sensibility and eye for beauty somehow eases the pain. While it’s difficult to get beyond the dark story of Eric Gill, the underlying beauty of this work is comparable to Bjertnes’s painting inspired by Masaccio’s The Expulsion, from the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. Bjertnes’s fresh interpretation of this iconic image of anguish and pain truly sums up the paradoxical nature of his work, comprised of equal parts beauty and pain. Originally from Zimbabwe, Kudzanai Chiurai has gained international success in South Africa, where he lives and works. Chiurai’s early work focused on a political, economic, and social critique of Zimbabwe. His seminal work Presidential Wallpaper was an unflattering depiction of President Robert Mugabe that led to Chiurai’s exile from Zimbabwe. Chiurai’s artistic career skyrocketed following solo exhibitions at MoMA and The Victoria & Albert Museum in 2011. Still highly political, his largescale paintings address issues including xenophobia, displacement, and black empowerment, also touching upon gender issues and racial stereotypes. The subject matter of Chiruai’s works relates to urban Johannesburg’s inner core, the poorest places where refugees and asylum-seekers struggle to find a new and better life among the ever-growing number of urban South Africans. Boldly stenciled figures are coupled with flashy, slogan-like texts and bright, colorful figuration. Traces of Chiurai’s experience as a designer, editor, and producer are visible in his mixedmedia paintings, while his interest in fashion is most evident in his portraits. Kudzanai Chiurai relies on photography, stenciling, texts, photo transfer, and paint to create colorful urban street scenes with strong political undertones. Kudzanai Chiurai’s photographic series Black President created in 2009 provides valuable insight into his highly theatrical and stylized approach to the subjects in his paintings. For this work Chiurai was specifically interested in investigating the way government roles are essentially exaggerated personas. With the idea for his par-
Kudzanai Chiurai The Perfect Isishebo, 2009 Oil on canvas 180 x 120 cm Private Collection Image Courtesy of Goodman Gallery, Cape Town & Johannesburg
ticular project clearly in mind, he bumped into a good friend at a party, a well-known DJ named Siya. His friend was stylishly dressed in a brightly printed shirt and he wore a chunky gold chain, exactly as Chiurai had imagined depicting The Minister of Foreign Affairs, so he decided to use his friend as the model for the series. Chiurai explains the significance of this work in an interview for The Guardian: “Siya is very theatrical—he knew how to strike the right pose. I like this one because you get a real sense of grandeur. I wanted to comment on the fact that there’s a lot of violence in South African schools; teachers often have to come to school armed. I’m also asking about who writes history in Africa. Here we see Siya dressed as a proud, black African, and yet the history of our continent is still mainly written from a white, Western perspective.”22 The theatricality and stylishness of Kudzanai Chiurai’s subjects immediately brings to mind both Barkley L. Hendricks and Kehinde Wiley’s work, and is also highly significant in terms of the empowerment that this successfully conveys. As seen in the Black President series, Chiurai draws upon the conventions of African studio portraiture, dramatized magazine editorials, hip-hop culture, film, and fashion as well as a host of other social and political stereotypes. Of course, these aspects also inform his approach to painting, providing important keys to access the strong political messages in Chiurai’s work. While the women are sexy and enticing, these are not simply romantic visions of lust and passion, these paintings hit the nerve of a dark, corrupt, even seedy political underworld where sex and politics don’t always mix so nicely, resulting in powerful paintings anchored in outspoken political critique. The artists featured in Fresh Paint share an approach to contemporary painting that typically involves an appropriation and striking recontextualization of historical sources of inspiration. These paintings are solidly anchored within a critical framework that speaks convincingly of the continued importance of the medium of painting today. Of course, the significance of these paintings extends beyond strict formalism, which is precisely what makes these works so powerful. These aesthetically beautiful paintings poke at us with the sharp-edged knife of racial and gender issues, politics and postcolonial critique, providing conceptual impact and relevance that extends beyond the painted surface. Above all, the very specific combination of the socially critical contemporary subject matter expressed with painterly skill and true respect for tradition is what makes these paintings so fresh. There are no gimmicks in this exhibition—no photographs posing as paintings, videos that convey painterly iconography, or performances that seek to tear the canvas of painting apart at the seams. In the end there is nothing to distract our attention from what we see in front of us—fresh paint.
22. Quoted from an interview with Laura Barnett in The Guardian, July 10, 2011, page 23, G2 Section.
Kudzanai Chiurai After You Win the Title, 2012 Mixed media on canvas 175 x 250 cm Robert Devereaux Collection, UK Image Courtesy of Goodman Gallery, Cape Town & Johannesburg
Kudzanai Chiurai Boy Next Door, 2009 Oil on canvas 180 x 120 cm Robert Devereaux Collection, UK Image Courtesy of Goodman Gallery, Cape Town & Johannesburg
Barkley L. Hendricks: Reverberations
Barkley L. Hendricks Brilliantly Endowed, 1977 Oil and acrylic on linen canvas 167.6 x 122.5 cm Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
One of the great American artists of the past fifty years, Barkley L. Hendricks is a highly accomplished painter and photographer with a style and vision unlike any other. He is best-known for his life-sized painted portraits, largely of people of color, which have called attention to and championed those in society who have been underserved and otherwise rendered invisible. Working apart from any artistic group or movement, he has pioneered a new way of looking at the figure in art, whether or not the art world has been willing to follow. Today his body of work stands out as unique among his contemporaries and even the earliest works feel as fresh as when first produced. Despite having a long and prolific career, only fairly recently has Hendricks begun to receive the attention his work commands. A newfound interest in the artist can in part be attributed to some combination of exhibitions such as Thelma Golden’s Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art (1994), Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (2003), and the 2008 painting retrospective Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, as well as the probing scholarship of art historian Richard J. Powell (particularly in his recent book Cutting a Figure), a renewed interest in the figure in contemporary art, and the general opening up of the commercial art world to artists of color.1 With the increased exposure over the past several years, Hendricks’s paintings have been rediscovered by and are now having a profound effect on a younger generation of creative minds, helping to pave the way for artists of color to achieve both critical and commercial success while investigating identity through representation. A look at the work of three other artists in Fresh Paint—Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, and Wangechi Mutu—helps provide a clearer contextualization of Hendricks’s work and its revolutionary spirit. While all three artists have different approaches to painting, each shares with Hendricks individual elements of style, technique, and use of materials. Moreover they all highlight the human figure, and largely the black body, as a key component of their practice. Likewise, Hendricks’s ripples of influence on a new generation are starting to be felt in significant ways, as seen in the works of artists such as Mickalene Thomas, Jeff Sonhouse, Rashid Johnson, Fahamu Pecou, and Luis Gispert. Hendricks was born in Philadelphia in 1945 and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) from 1963 to 1967. There he was the first African-American student to be awarded two consecutive travel scholarships, which brought him to Europe in 1966 and then North Africa in 1968. As Hendricks visited the major art museums across Europe, he noticed just how limited the representation of black figures has been in Western art history, and how few of those depictions have been truly humanizing or personalized portraits. At the same time, he was fascinated by the elaborate images of wealthy individuals that were so often present in museums—in the work of such artists as Rembrandt, Caravaggio, van Dyck for example—and paid close attention to the formal techniques employed in their creation. Shortly after his return home, Hendricks began painting life-sized representations of the figures in his own court, blending his interest in the history of portraiture with the growing consciousness of black self-representation, and in the
1. Richard J. Powell has researched and written about Hendricks’s work for many years, including texts in Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century (1997), The Barkley L. Hendricks Experience (2001), Back to Black: Art, Cinema & the Racial Imaginary (with David A. Bailey in 2005). Black President and Birth of the Cool (as well as The Magic City in 2000) were exhibitions that I organized, which highlighted Hendricks’s work.
Jeff Sonhouse Decompositioning, 2010 Mixed media on canvas 208.3 x 193.7 cm Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA Museum purchase, Fund for Acquisitions © Jeff Sonhouse, Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion
2. Trevor Schoonmaker, “Birth of the Cool,” in Trevor Schoonmaker (ed.), Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, 2008, p. 19. 3. It is worth mentioning the Yale MFA connection in terms of Hendricks’s influence. Yale MFA graduates since 2000 who would have had access to Hendricks’s work via University classes or institutional memory include Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Wangechi Mutu, Luis Gispert, William Cordova, and Njideka Akunyili. 4. Barkley Hendricks in conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker, May 13, 2007.
process creating some of the most remarkable portraits of the time.2 In 1970 Hendricks went to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he earned both his BFA and MFA in two years.3 There he was one of only two figurative painters enrolled at a time when most artists were working with abstraction and minimalism. His interest in representation led him to study with photography professor Walker Evans, and he ultimately spent more time with Yale’s photography students than those in the painting department.4 In 1971, while still a student at Yale, Hendricks participated in his first major museum exhibition, Contemporary Black Artists in America, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. By the mid-1970s Hendricks began to garner greater attention for his work, but as was the case with most African-American artists of his generation, large-scale mainstream commercial success was much more elusive. In order to grasp the complexity of Hendricks’s artistic contribution, one needs to look closely at the era in which he first painted portraits, from 1968 to 1983. Considering the volatile social climate of that period, his hard-hitting and true-to-life representations of black and Latino individuals and street culture were challenging to the status quo of the art world. His portraits are unique in that they can simultaneously convey the depth of one’s psychology and elevate the common person to iconic status. They are neither dispassionate, clinically rendered photorealist representations nor culturally idealized, romantic images. Rather, these are honest portraits of everyday people—his family, friends, associates, students, and local characters from the neighborhood—stylized but emotionally stirring. Hendricks’s paintings reveal the artist’s rare talent for capturing and conveying the individual personality of his subjects through their distinctive style, attitude, gestures, and expressions. But at the same time, these images were visually and conceptually loaded and thus potentially threatening to many in mainstream society; to recognize the validity of many of Hendricks’s portraits, one would have to also acknowledge the racial, cultural, and economic divides between the upper- and underclass of the time. To further complicate matters, Hendricks was not only painting people rarely represented in the contemporary portraiture of the time, but works that included the nude, self-assured black male. Hendricks has painted numerous nudes of both women and men throughout his career, and his self-portrait Brilliantly Endowed from 1977 is one of his most provocative. The painting is bold and defiant, but also demonstrates the artist’s playful sense of humor. Hendricks depicts himself in the nude with a strong, idealized physique that plays to stereotypical perceptions of the hyper-masculine black male. He looks the viewer in the eye with a stern, self-assured gaze. But within the apparent machismo there is vulnerability, as well as a healthy dose of self-parody. The title of the painting is taken from a review by New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer, who described Hendricks as a “brilliantly endowed” painter. The inherent sarcasm in his nakedness is emphasized by the fact that he wears nothing but a cap, tube socks, low-top sneakers, and fashionable accessories. Despite the pervasive humor in this work, neither the general public nor the art world was ready for such a daring portrayal of the black male at the time it was painted. Brilliantly Endowed also exemplifies a formal strategy often employed by Hendricks, described by the artist as his “limited palette” series, in which he paints the figure on top of a solid, flat ground within the same color field. Through their monochromatic backgrounds, flattened space, and simplified palette, this series demonstrates Hendricks’s limited, but willful, engagement with minimalism through the unlikely genre of figurative representation. Vendetta (1977) for example positions a woman in white clothing on a white background. In Brilliantly Endowed, Hendricks’s brown body set against a dark brown, almost black background, might also suggest a subtle ideological and conceptual connection with the Black Power movement.
Kerry James Marshall Untitled (Painter), 2008 Acrylic on PVC 73 x 62.8 cm Collection of Noel Kirnon Image Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
5. Kerry James Marshall, “Kerry James Marshall and Arthur Jafa: Fragments from a Conversation, June – July 1999,” in Kerry James Marshall, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2000, p. 90.
Another Fresh Paint artist whose inventive work has helped open up opportunities for younger generations is Chicago-based Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955, Birmingham, Alabama). While Hendricks’s engagement with socially conscious ideology is largely a byproduct of whom he has been painting, Marshall has pursued a more overt socio-political agenda. In Untitled (Painter) from 2008, Marshall engages a similar minimalist strategy of putting a dark black figure against a light black background, suggesting the intention of creating a cultural dialogue about representation. Marshall renders his subject in flattened, black planes as if she is more an archetype than a portrait of an individual. Marshall states: “Extreme blackness plus grace equals power. I see the figures as emblematic; I’m reducing the complex variations of tone to a rhetorical dimension: blackness. It’s a kind of stereotyping, but my figures are never laughable.”5 Indeed, the artist depicted with apron and palette may be read as a metaphor for Marshall’s interest in creating a new artistic paradigm. Marshall’s paintings Watts 1963 (1995) and Souvenir II (1997) have more direct engagement with his ideological aims. In Watts 1963, Marshall depicts himself, his sister, and brother in the Nickerson Gardens housing project where they lived. Rather than a place of despair and poverty that one might expect, the work portrays an anti-ghetto utopian space full of hope, dreams, and beauty. Likewise, in Souvenir II—part of Marshall’s Memento series that commemorates the civil rights
Rashid Johnson Self-Portrait in Homage to Barkley Hendricks, 2005 C-print Image Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
6. Kerry James Marshall, “Notes on Career and Work,” in Kerry James Marshall, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2000, pp.120–122. 7. Hendricks created this work for the exhibition Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York (2003). He came to know Fela’s music during a visit to Nigeria in 1977 and subsequently met and photographed him during concerts in Connecticut in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
and black liberation movements—Marshall presents the struggles of black America in the 1960s as a grand history painting set in the interior of a family member’s home during that period.6 By clearly addressing the narrative of African-American history in this way, Marshall presents a very different conceptual framework than Hendricks. Both artists embrace black figures as central to their work, but for Marshall they are components of a broader mission to reframe their position in history and society’s collective dialogue. Hendricks’s work on the other hand more so reflects one man’s personal engagement as an artist with the immediate world around him, which happens to be largely African-American. Still, in many ways, by depicting the everyday lives of black Americans, both artists arrive at a similar place of inserting positive black figures into the art discourse, which then serves to undermine existing stereotypes. Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977 Los Angeles, California) is also engaged in a conceptual project that is larger than the process of painting. His World Stage series seeks to ask questions about the construction of power, empire, and historical narrative. While this global enterprise has taken him to faraway places like India, China, Brazil and Nigeria, the origins of his process are based in the streets of Harlem and Brooklyn, and before that, in New Haven where the artist earned his MFA while at Yale. In common with Hendricks’s interest in capturing the quotidian, Wiley’s early portraits focused on young African American men who he approached on the street. Wiley’s photorealist approach to everyday black men positions him squarely as a contemporary descendant of Hendricks. Their mutual investigation of the black male body and their engagement with the history of painting links them together in art history’s genealogy, but their processes and aims are far different from one another. Hendricks borrows techniques from the Old Masters—such as Caravaggio’s theatrical use of light and shadow or Rembrandt’s attention to minute detail—and applies them to his contemporary subjects. Wiley’s work has another art historical engagement, directly referencing a range of artistic and urban vernacular styles, positioning young African-American men dressed in today’s casual fashions in the same heroic or sensual poses as figures in specific Old Master paintings. Furthermore, Hendricks is interested in the pursuit of the individual, aiming to depict the very realness of his subjects. Wiley meanwhile engages in fantasy with his sitter, constructing their poses as a means of building an archetype more than a specific personage. Still, both artists examine critical notions of masculinity, sexuality, and identity and have positioned themselves as contemporary descendants of a long line of portraitists. Hendricks also shares his use of visual embellishment as an important tool in his work with Marshall, Wiley, and fellow Fresh Paint artist Wangechi Mutu. Wiley frequently depicts his subjects against ornamental, wallpaper-like backgrounds, whose decorative patterns weave around and even on top of the figure. In Souvenir II, Marshall uses gold glitter to overlay text on top of the painting and create fringes that frame the image. His use of a cheap, flashy material to serve a serious socio-political agenda demonstrates his understanding of the connection between commemoration and kitsch. Hendricks masterfully walks a similar line between reverence and outlandish garishness with Fela: Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen . . . (2002), the only commemorative portrait that Hendricks has produced.7 His painting depicts the complex and revolutionary Nigerian Afrobeat musician and political activist Fela Kuti. In a confrontational stance with one hand grabbing his crotch, he unapologetically presents Fela as a potent concoction of bad-boy rock star, man of the people, and religious icon. Hendricks deftly melds Catholic symbolism with irreverent secular playfulness by adding symbolic iconography and materials to the work: a microphone in one hand and joint in the other, a halo over his head, a
Kehinde Wiley St. John the Baptist II, 2006 Oil on canvas 243.8 x 182.9 cm Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina Promised gift of Blake Byrne © Kehinde Wiley, Photo Peter Paul Geoffrion
Fahamu Pecou Nunna My Heros: After Barkley Hendricks’ Icon for my Man Superman 1969, 2011 Acrylic, gold leaf, oil stick on canvas 160 x 125.7 cm Image Courtesy of Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, and the artist
8. The painted high heel shoes were added by Hendricks to honor Fela’s “queens,” his singers and dancers whom he married in a single ceremony as an act of solidarity.
crown of thorns around a sacred flaming heart in the shape of the reversed African continent, a gilded background, a hand crafted altar-like frame, twenty-seven pairs of individually painted high heels on the floor, and iridescent paint that produces a mystical glow when seen under black light.8 This extreme overabundance speaks to the larger than life persona of Fela and the way in which the man and his myth have become one. Brooklyn-based Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi, Kenya) demonstrates a deep understanding of the capacity of materials to carry meaning and takes the accumulation of imagery to an even higher level than Hendricks. Combining found objects like fake pearls, animal furs, and glitter with paint and magazine cutouts, she samples from sources as diverse as the fashion industry, African traditions, international politics, pornography, and science fiction to produce her maximalist collages. Though works such as Humming (2010) are both looser and denser in style than Hendricks’s portraits, both artists share a passion for personalized craftsmanship, and employ unique materials as transformative elements—such as fashion accessories like high heels—to explore the vast potential of the human figure.9 In Mutu’s
Mickalene Thomas Baby I Am Ready Now, 2007 Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on wooden panel, diptych 182.8 x 335 cm overall Rubell Family Collection, Miami © Mickalene Thomas
9. Mutu and Hendricks have exhibited together three times, in The Magic City at Brent Sikkema, New York (2000), Black President at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2003), and 30 Americans at the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2008). 10. Mickalene Thomas in conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker, March 1, 2012. 11. Franklin Sirmans, “Barkley Hendricks: Ordinary People,” in Trevor Schoonmaker (ed.), Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, 2008, p. 87.
ongoing investigation of the representation of black female bodies she explores critical issues of gender, race, colonialism, and globalization. As the work of Barkley Hendricks has become more visible over the past several years, more and more artists are creating visual responses that affirm the lasting artistic and cultural import of his work. Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971, Camden, New Jersey) cites Hendricks as a significant influence as she investigates contemporary black femininity and sexuality. Hendricks’s portraits have “this incredible sexiness and formal sophistication that are so seductive, coupled with a sort of confrontational coolness that practically dares you not to acknowledge their presence and seriousness.”10 Thomas also references Hendricks by presenting her subjects through the historical lens of 1970s style and fashion. As a time of heightened social awareness and empowerment within Black Power and feminist circles, the era functions as an important conceptual framework in which to locate her portraits. In her paintings and photographs she carefully constructs the period setting, from rhinestone beadwork to patterned textiles and wood-paneled background. Works like Thomas’s Baby I Am Ready Now (2007) radiate with a similar sensuality and lushness of ornamentation as Hendricks’s Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins) (1975– 1976). Sweet Thang is one of the clearest examples of how Hendricks embraced the Netherlandish tradition of embellishing the image for our visual consumption. From the woven carpet and Moroccan-tiled wall to the subject’s shimmering skirt, striped head wrap, and sparkling jewelry, a rich array of complex patterns and luxurious surfaces abounds. Such abundance serves not only to catch our eye but to convince us of the artist’s dexterity in the complex representation of materials, fabrics, and light. Thomas’s Baby I Am Ready Now shares Hendricks’s interest in layered pattern, intense color, and embrace of decorative sensibility. When Jeff Sonhouse (b .1968 New York, New York) first saw Hendricks’s painting Tuff Tony (1978) in 1994 in Thelma Golden’s Black Male exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, he realized just how loaded with meaning, misconceptions, and power the black body could be.11 Hendricks’s work later proved to be a catalyst for Sonhouse’s own investigation of black masculinity, particularly his interest in challenging notions of racial stereotypes through a more complex representation of the black male. On the one hand, the masks on Sonhouse’s nattily dressed subjects serve to conceal their identity and consequently undermine traditional portraiture. Yet, these masks still reveal the eyes, nose, and mouth, which are most closely associated with racial caricature. The resulting works allow the figure to function as both trickster and oracle, simultaneously spoofing stereotypes and conveying a tranquil spiritual presence. When first looking at Hendricks’s paint-
Luis Gispert Dios Mio D&G, 2011 C-print 171.5 x 122 cm © Luis Gispert Images Courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery, New York
ings, Sonhouse says he was “drawn to his figures and how they embody a spirit of calm that allows you to comfortably experience whatever else is going on in the painting.”12 In Decompositioning (2010) Sonhouse’s subject personifies that same sense of calm as a swirling piano breaks apart behind the figure while piano wire and wood scraps are thrust forward from the surface of canvas. Drawing a parallel between musical and visual compositions, the work reads as a commentary on the act of painting itself. In addition to those whose style and process have been influenced by Hendricks, in recent years some younger artists have reinterpreted some of his most iconic portrait paintings. Twenty-eight years after Hendricks painted Brilliantly Endowed, the conceptual artist Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago, Illinois) was inspired to create his photographic work titled Self-Portrait in Homage to Barkley Hendricks (2005). When Johnson first came across an image of Brilliantly Endowed in print in 2003, the painting’s style and content struck him as dramatically different from any black artists he had known before. As a representation of the black figure it was neither tragic nor angry, but stood out in its complexity as being both bold and vulnerable.13 Johnson’s photographic tribute to Hendricks is a faithfully detailed reenactment that remarkably captures both the brashness and openness of the original. In another homage to Hendrick’s bombastic style of self-portraiture Atlanta-based Fahamu Pecou (b. 1975 Brooklyn, New York) inserted himself into one of Hendricks’s earliest self-portraits, Icon for My Man Superman (Superman never saved any black people – Bobby Seale) (1969) in his new painting Nunna My Heros: After Barkley Hendricks’ Icon for my Man Superman 1969 (2011). Creating a self-portrait in the role of Barkley Hendricks playing superman is a daring move, but it is in part the swagger and attitude of Hendricks’s portraits that many of today’s artists so admire and attempt to emulate. Pecou was drawn to the detailed rendering of Hendricks’s figures, but he was most impressed by the audacity of his work, “asserting that one can and should be his own hero rather than waiting on a rescue.”14 Meanwhile, Luis Gispert (b. 1972 Jersey City, New Jersey) recreated the look and feel of Hendricks’s Lawdy Mama (1969) for his photograph Dios Mio D&G (2011). Borrowing the Byzantine icon-like gold background and the curved lunette frame, he updates Hendricks’s portrait of his cousin with perfectly spherical Afro with a Dolce & Gabbana clad, ghetto-fabulous sister in bleached blond dreads. If imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery then Hendricks has some serious admirers. With so many artists today responding to his work, Hendricks stands out as an artist well ahead of his time. Though his work has defied easy categorization and his rugged individualism landed him outside of the mainstream, his unrelenting dedication to his pioneering vision and his empowering portrayal of those who have been overlooked will continue to inspire new generations. Today his ongoing body of work is as vital and vibrant as ever, and the full impact of his work is just beginning to unfold.
12. Jeff Sonhouse in conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker, February 26, 2012. 13. Rashid Johnson in conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker, February 27, 2012. 14. Fahamu Pecou in conversation with Trevor Schoonmaker, February 22, 2012.
The Pleasure and the Painting
I. The Beauty and The Wonder About a year ago, during a lecture I held on the topic of contemporary Norwegian art at the art school in Kokkola, Finland, a student who argued that I was only talking about mayhem and destruction interrupted me. “What’s this got to do with art?” she asked, before accusing me of various hidden agendas. It’s not like the question is unusual in any way. The majority of people involved in contemporary art have at one point or another had to deal with this question. This is usually from clueless relatives during Christmas dinners, or suspicious co-workers during periods of part-time employment. What I found, and still find, extraordinary is the fact that the question was asked by a student at an art school in 2011. Art, in her opinion, was supposed to be “inspiring, and make people feel good.” This, too, I found, and still find, extraordinary especially coming from a person in her twenties during pre-academic art education. I tried to answer the question to the best of my ability, but it was clear that the message would not hit home. She obviously didn’t hear a word of my response, nor did she want to. Eventually, she got up and left the room. Up until that point, I had been talking extensively about figurative drawing and painting, but eventually hit a nerve when I started talking about the works of Mattias Faldbakken and Gardar Eide Einarson, and from there to Karl Edvin Endresens distribution of the date rape-drug GHB during his BA graduation show in 2009. That is when the reaction came. Which is, I guess, about exactly where it should come, if it is supposed to come at all. Years before this, I had visited the studio of a painter I went to art school with in prehistoric times. His career was non-existent, so to speak, but that didn’t stop him from painting compulsively day and night. The studio was crammed with about fifty monumental canvases—the output of the last week’s activities. Expressive, at times touching upon a Berlin-based “neue wilde”-vibe dated 1983, these paintings seemed to contradict themselves in their peaceful registration of shapes and colors. I didn’t know what to make of them, apart from being very pleasant to look at. That’s when he told me about his thoughts on beauty being the last taboo of art, and when he told me that he did not aim for anything besides creating something beautiful. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. But for the love of God, I think he’s got a point. Even further back in time: during my years at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the mid 1990s—a time and place obsessed with the human body and its representation in media and pornography, (i.e. perfect surroundings for me at the time)—one of the painters cried out during a seminar at the theory department; “I’m sick of this obsession with human flesh! Body, body, body! You’ve got a body, and you can do all sorts of things to it—so what? You can put it in a corner for all I care, not all of us are interested in these things, you know!” A cry left largely unheard at the time, but one that really stuck in my memory. Some things become clear with distance in time. This, however, has not. I am not even sure why I’m referring to this incident here, more than out of a hunch that with the right timing you can be so radical that you cross over to being conservative. But more often, I encounter conservative attitudes that context makes radical by definition.
And these fragments of memory tell me this; in a world populated by masochistic performance artists—and let’s be fair, they all either are or they’d rather be doing something else—the quiet nerd with the paintbrush and nothing more on his agenda than a humble ambition to make something nice will ultimately look radical next to the conservative state funded outrage by naked performers dripping with blood and excrement in a controlled and secure environment. Yet, from my perspective—and I used to fill both of these roles at given times—painting may be a conservative medium; but that doesn’t necessarily stop the content from being radical. On the contrary; the institutionalized limitations of the frame may even amplify a radical content. II: The Horror, The Horror One of the constants, and indeed part of the foundation, of the modernistic project—what we now know and refer to as “contemporary art”—is its own negation. I am talking about the urge to make a break with recent history, the need to cut off all connections to tradition, and as a consequence, the denial of itself and everything else. We’ve seen this again and again. We’ve even seen it repeatedly taking place within modernism itself, which—among other things—is why we no longer use the term. Because “contemporary art” sounds more serious than “post-postmodernism,” which would prove an easy target for ridicule, even if the term would be technically correct. Ninety-five years after Duchamp tipped the urinal 45 degrees and signed it may be a good time to take a closer look at the first, and possibly the last, fatality of this impulse: painting. How many times did we find the medium declared dead within this timeframe? Just as many times as it was later resurrected. Painting may very well be the first example we have of “hype.” It works like this; after being exposed to an increasing number of paintings for some years, art students aged twenty to thirty tend to find their voice elsewhere, and turn against it. It also works the other way round; after a late puberty spent in the presence of highly theoretical conceptual art, usually written rather than executed, the break will more often than not constitute a return to the basic materials. This cosmic law can be applied to most things in life. Conservative politics leads to a radical takeover. Increasing order paves the way for chaos, etc. We’re kind of stuck in a moment of constant change, forever caught in flux, and we should know this by now. There are then, of course, other factors playing a part here. Painting, or for that matter the whole art world, is no isolated island, even though there are forces that would prefer it that way. Art, as a whole, responds to what’s really going on, on a very fundamental level. As uncertain as we may be when it comes to what art really is, and what it does, it’s pretty clear that this response is deeply imbedded within its very nature. To stress a point of some relevance: hijacked airplanes cutting skyscrapers in half will not go unnoticed, at least not as long as the skyscrapers in question stand on Western soil, in the very center of contemporary art’s own infrastructure. The impact of 9/11 on the progress of art is not unlike the effects of World War I, which played no small part in the introduction of the readymade object within the institution.
I’ve said it many times, but I’ll do it again; a common statement of the 1990s was the idea of video taking the place of painting as the medium. At the time, this was a very correct observation. The videotape had by then left its avant-garde/new media/cutting edge-phase and rapidly became the medium of choice for many, if not most artists of my generation, including myself. What few realized was the fact that by overtaking the position of painting as the center of attention, the magnetic tape also absorbed the stigma of painting. By the time of the millennial shift, an exaggerated number of video works, all dealing with issues of private versus public, now fully exposed and lived out by everyone on Facebook, had been produced. Not all of them very good, and practically none of them original in any sense. You could almost smell the fresh paint around the corner when the news on what happened in New York City broke that morning in September 2001, and given the handy cam documentation of the incident; video as a vehicle for creativity took a serious blow. Poor old Stockhausen said it was an “artwork by Lucifer,” but media only reported that he said it was “art,” thus making the world’s coolest composer an unnecessary target for the rage and frustration felt at the time. And this is where the history of painting as we now know and understand it starts. Painting was reference-loaded, fragmented, confrontational, and not very easy to pin down in its maze of contradictions and sub-discourses. Looking back as far as the 1980s—a time when painting ruled the world, and kind of peaked, at least within the timeframe of the twentieth century—expressionism, or—as in this case—neo-expressionism quickly evolved to a distinct visual sign language. It had become a codified commodity. Quite simply, it was hip. It was also muy macho; considering artists like Salle, Baselitz, and Lüpertz from the perspective of 2012, it is clear they’ve informed fractions of this particular universe, but the extremism of their actions seems to have gone astray in the transitional period of the 1990s. The exaggeration is not the same. Or, rather, it does not read the same. The idea that the next work by all means has to be bigger in size, and more visually spectacular than the last one, is—for good or bad—no longer present in the generation that has since picked up the brush. And the person writing this—that’s me—finds it increasingly hard to see the same things I saw back then during my formative years. To be honest, when I was a young aspiring artist and entered art school, painting was the shit and nothing else mattered. So, I belong to one of those negative generations. I had to shift focus and become a video and performance artist, as the idea of painting quickly became a straitjacket of the mind. And I wasn’t exactly alone in feeling this way, by the mid-1990s, with the aforementioned establishment of the videotape as the main object of the times; painting was no longer where it was happening. Nobody indulged in it, it seemed. Not in Norway at least. And if they did—a few of those who stuck with it are represented here—it usually passed by unnoticed. One exception: Bjarne Melgaard, who didn’t limit his output to painting, and when it comes down to it, more or less painted in spite of painting. Very well aware of what he was doing, and in what context, one of his early scribbled statements on the canvas read: “I don’t find painting in the 90s problematic at all.” Apparently, he still doesn’t—the paintings have poured out of him ever since. Personally, I miss it dearly. In my mind, painting is more or less a specific place to dwell, a kind of internal retreat. Everything I know I’ve learned from painting. Kind of. Not to say I can’t pick it up anytime I like—I can. And I will. But not now. In hindsight, everything becomes clear. Painting really did return. Not bombastically, with manifests and all, but rather smoothly, almost unnoticed, little by little becoming a relevant medium again, which of course, it had been all the time in its retreat to the shadow lands, behind the trends and the media blitz. This did not turn out to be the decade of painting as prophesized, but rather a movement that developed along with the increasing number of young artists who found it unnecessary to limit one-
self to only one artistic discipline. It was just as much a decade of drawing. Or installation. By all definitions, it was also a decade of writing. These were the years of a still expanding verbalization of art, where art schools applied courses in all forms of writing that may come in handy for a visual artist. Besides, we’re all writers, really, and storytellers are being translated into visuals. The fact is, even though we’re now facing up to never ending variations and possibilities of what constitutes a painting, the hardcore abstract artist seems to be absent in our times. Does anyone still aim for that particular dimension beyond language? I am referring to the devastating silence of monochrome painting and the inherent dehumanization within minimalism. Not as a subject, but the thing itself. Because when abstraction occurs now, it is either as a quote from art history referring back to itself or as a consequence of a process taking its jump-off point in representation.
III. The Painters Take, for example, someone like Markus Brendmoe, who recently dug deep into the national icon Edvard Munch in a vast cycle of paintings—often driven over to an abstraction located somewhere between the compulsive outbursts of the action painters of the 1950s and the LSD-informed introspection of the 1960s, yet ending up with something that in its essence has very little to do with either. Brendmoe’s method is quintessentially a contemporary one, something we can sum up in one word: research. This is something that not only applies to painters in 2012, but to artists in general, including writers and musicians. If there is one thing that ties all the disparate discourses of our time together, it lies in this approach. Not that good research necessarily leads up to great works of art, but even the idea of creation seems to have taken the back seat here, as the ongoing investigation has taken over as focal point. Brendmoe’s examination of the late painter constitutes a close look at art as such, being less concerned about its own status within the boundaries of the institution. Translated to sound, this would be the distorted, ringing feedback from a Fender Stratocaster leaning against a Marshall amplifier with all controls set to 10 and the displays of the mixing table firmly in the red. The sound of painting stripped of its own mythologies. This is something that also takes place in the works of Sverre Bjertnes, where art history constantly is intertwined with the personal to establish a platform for dialogue. As a former student of Odd Nerdrum, Bjertnes comes from a different corner of the landscape than most of his contemporaries, but because of this ultimately pre-modernistic background, his view on the medium—and he often addresses the very process of painting as such—often comes alarmingly close to a symbiosis between the executor and the executed. His background as a wunderkind under the wings of the old master—Bjertnes was a teenager at the time—trained to paint (and think) as Rembrandt, coupled with a compulsive interest in the realities of the modernistic project, makes Bjertnes a key figure when it comes to understanding the peculiar twists and schisms within Norwegian art in general, and painting in particular. Whatever one thinks of Odd Nerdrum, he emerged at a time when a return to premodernistic artistic values was more or less considered a blasphemy, something that ultimately led to a conflict and schism that still lingers. With this, a parallel history of Norwegian painting developed, like a dark twin planet, feeding on modernism as a defined enemy. A separate universe, really, with grand ambitions and highly romantic overtones, not unlike the development of Norwegian black metal, and with a similar distaste for the achievements of the twentieth century, not to mention the twenty-first. Bjertnes’s own progress, from extreme photorealism, hallucinogenic dreamscapes, up to a brutal figuration is, in hindsight, driven by a poetic logic on a level beyond the
personal. Ever unpredictable, he recently started to incorporate sculptural elements in his works. As everywhere else, the act of research is crucial. Bjertnes’s tendency towards extremes makes him delve into his subjects to the point of absorbing them, driven by the need to understand the existential mechanisms that on the one hand made them, and on the other hand makes him what we all are. Which is, when it all boils down to the essentials, a bunch of recovering substance abusers. This is who we are. I mention this because this body of work is branded by a series of breaks; a break with Nerdrum, but more importantly, the break with being sober (Bjertnes had a longtime romance with alcohol), and even more importantly, ultimately, as a consequence, the break with drinking. The relation between art and intoxication is thus continuously investigated here, as is the interaction between creative and destructive impulses, in general. Where both Brendmoe and Bjertnes by definition are painters, more or less sticking with their preferred medium, Crispin Gurholt is a more nomadic presence. As an artist in constant transit between mediums, he navigates by the narrative qualities of his vision. Typically, his paintings are registrations, or indeed translations, of his performance work. His performance work, then again, as manifested in his Live Photo-series, is built upon the same principle, as it is a re-staging of staged photography. And staged photography is, as we all know, literally staged. One cannot help but suspect that these ends will meet at some point in the future. Gurholt’s present activities in the field of painting is in essence very close to the reproductive principles of someone like Richard Prince, as what we see here is painting imitating performance imitating photography imitating real life situations. And common for these situations are the violent over and undertones, as they’re present in all everyday-situations. Gurholt prefers to focus on the more extreme moments where the adrenalin and urgency of the situation tend to lead to critical decisions, usually with disastrous results. There are references to the overblown proportions of crime fiction, as well as the banality of petty crime gone awfully wrong. Painting as such is then merely another piece of the puzzle, as it is in the world at large. Gurholt’s main interest lays elsewhere—painting is merely a tool, not a way of life. Or, is it? Usually, out of habit, and to some degree from experience, I tend to insist on the idea that painting has to be a full-time activity if it is going to be worthwhile, but maybe that’s just my own excuse for not dealing with it. Or maybe it’s me being stuck in a corner with romantic values and stuff. Nevertheless, there’s no denying the chilling qualities of Gurholt’s paintings, where the transition and reproduction diffuse the line between fiction and documentary, making one implode and the other explode, leaving us with a fractured consciousness as to what, when, and who. Steinar Jakobsen, then, embodies this translation syndrome within contemporary art to the point where there’s absolutely no doubt that his paintings are firmly located in photography. I mean he even paints the negatives for Christ’s sake—haunting and ghostlike, and literally negations themselves. At first glance, the realism makes you read them as that. Like snapshots from the end of the film, for those old enough to remember the pre-digital era of photography, or the random accidental shots usually left undeveloped in the darkroom. The trend for the past ten years, or was it twenty years, has been the very opposite form of transition, in that a generation of photographers has addressed painting in their work. Not that painters in any way have ignored the photograph for the past hundred years—this interaction was there from day one—but to implement the negatives, and those particular negatives, the leftovers, the ones who nobody usually cares about, now that is interesting. I would also extend this to the use of overexposed shots, the reflection of the flashlight in a pair of zombie-like eyes, or the fuzzy blob of something too close to the lens. These are pictures that tell a separate story, right next door to the official one. All in all, Jakobsen’s output not only tells us something about memory, but also something funda-
mental about how we choose to preserve it, and how the medium plays us the way we think we’re playing it. IV. The Fragments I once knew a painter who insisted on working with his sunglasses on. I never heard him talk about the importance of daylight or pay any attention to nuances. He was a great painter, and a source of inspiration for me at the time. The sunglasses, however, never became a vital aspect for me until I crossed over to video, where I used them every now and then in front of the camera in order to look cool. Way before my time, someone at Konstfack in Stockholm stayed up one night and painted twenty copies of Mondrian’s compositions of squares, and left them on the stairs of the Moderna Muséet in the early morning hours. Back then it was a joke. Today it would be an artistic intervention, eventually being presented in the same institution it was mocking. And given time, possibly outgrow Mondrian in importance. When living in Bergen, I was asked to take a look at the works of Stig Helliksen, who had died in an accident in 2003. The man had never shown them in public, and his family was taken aback by the extent of his archives. There were thousands of paintings, dated as far back as the early 1980s. This proved to be one man’s own recent history of painting, as it progressed from abstract-expressionist outbursts to complex webs of colors to desperate scribbling and back again. No surprise, it was at its most naked and vulnerable during the 1990s. This direct, personal approach, and the communication with the man and his medium are rare these days. This is more or less left to the outsiders to explore for the time being—which they do. I was no stranger to painter machismo myself; at the age of twenty-one I decided to become the greatest painter ever, and my first stroke of genius was to paint a cartoon-like car crash. A big one. Too big. I used many colors. Too many. Especially the chromoxide green could have been left out, as it tends to make everything else that comes in touch with it chromoxide green. I’ve kept a small piece of this grand mistake. It depicts the backseat window on one of the cars involved in the crash, but if you don’t know this it reads as an abstract painting. A bad abstract painting, with way too much chromoxide green in the mix. If you know your colors, you rule the world. If you can master the bottomless dark of mixing emerald green with crimson, you can bring nighttime to your surroundings. A friendly secure, darkness, like the one before and after existence.
page 110: Markus Brendmoe Warnemunde, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 188 x 125 cm
Squeezing the Drop of Paint Forty-one Notes on Painting and the Performative Paco Barragán
1. And now? 2. These are the words with which Svetlana Alpers ends her book The Vexations of Art. The traditional idea of “the end of painting” or “no exit” reverberates in the question. This is the typical claim of many an art critic these days. 3. And now? We are in the middle of a change of paradigm. 4. Thus, we shift from a “word” culture to an “image” culture; from a “print-based” culture to a “media” culture. What Régis Debray already framed in his Media Manifestoes (1996) as “graphosphere” and “videosphere,” respectively. I would add as a third mode of mediation the “blogosphere”: social media —Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo . . . —and web 2.0 — Google, Wikipedia, I-Cloud . . . which finally entails a second transformation within the first: from old media to new media; from mass media to online media. 5. Basically, it means that we’re changing from a “linguistic” communication based on literacy and attention to a “visual” one, based on media consciousness and short-span attention. 6. The intellectual, cultural capital of the elite and the art world, which is still typographic in form, will progressively lose intellectual authority.1 7. And now? How will this affect painting? 8. The reconfiguration from “graphosphere” to “videosphere” and “blogosphere,” together with the advent of tools like
scanners, digital cameras, i-Phones, i-Pads, PhotoShop . . . has brought about a new way in which we receive, manipulate, and distribute images. And this has and is changing and adding to painting’s history as a medium of communication. 9. Painting has expanded towards other disciplines like sculpture, installation, and digital mediums. Among other possible exits, we have the pictorial as “moving image,” and secondly, as “performance,” or more precisely “performative.” 10. In this context, where painting deploys interdisciplinary and digital approaches, it unfolds as a moving image in front of our eyes, thus revealing the genesis of the painting, as if the viewer were sitting in the artist’s studio. The strategies can vary from iconographical representations of classic paintings to formal experiments with traditional forms of stop-frame animations with minimal editing and the use of sophisticated digital techniques and programs.2 11. I would like to deal with this question by placing emphasis on the “performative” as both the making of the painting and the finality of it. 12. Can painting be considered a “performance”? Does painting entail “performativity”? Is the act of painting itself “performative”?3 13. In order to grasp this expanded concept of performance, we must begin with a reference to the linguist J.L. Austin, who coined the term “performativity” in 1961,4 defining it as a linguistic manifestation, which not only describes, but also simultaneously changes the world, creating new situations. In other words, this is an utterance that brings about the thing it describes. “I declare you man and wife” is a classic example, for it performs the action at the same time as it describes a new state of being.5 14. Secondly, we are also obliged to refer to the seminal essay
by Michael Fried6 in which he contends—writing about minimalism—that art degenerates the more it overlaps with theater, since the theatrical, according to Fried, is what lies between the arts [between painting and sculpture]. Theatricality also implies “a concern with time, or rather with the duration of experience.” 15. Finally: “Gender reality is performative—stated Judith Butler—which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed. It seems fair to say that certain kinds of acts are usually interpreted as expressive of a gender core or identity, and that these acts either conform to an expected gender identity or contest that expectation in some way.”7 Race and class are also categories subject to expanded performativity theories. 16. The “performative” nature of the act of painting implies an active artistic process that references the gestural, the expressive, the physical, the theatrical, the constructed, the personal. The performative takes precedence over the subject. The performative expands outside the canvas and into performance and other mediums. 17. Painting always struggled with the performative, from the caves of Lascaux to Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, Rembrandt and Velázquez, Goya, Van Gogh, Picasso, Braque, Malevich, Tatlin, Duchamp . . . 18. 1949: American artist Jackson Pollock drips and pours the canvas (No. 1); Argentinian-born Lucio Fontana slashes the canvas (Concetto Spaziale); Japanese Shozo Shimamoto punctures the canvas (Work [Holes]).8 19. “When I am in my painting—said Pollock—I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”9 20. Allan Kaprow, Georges Mathieu, Nam June Paik, the Gutai Group, Otto Muehl, Joseph Beuys, Nikki de St. Phalle, Robert
Rauschenberg, Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein, Carolee Schneemann, Hermann Nitsch, Yoko Ono, Robert Morris . . . 21. Living painting: in his Anthropométries de la période bleue (1960), Yves Klein experimented with using naked female models covered in blue paint as “living brushes.” These paintings were occasionally made in the gallery, in front of a fan audience with a string quartet playing Klein’s own musical score. 22. “Covered in paint, grease, chalk, ropes, plastic. I establish my body as visual territory. Not only am I an image-maker—wrote Carole Schneemann, who was originally trained as a painter, about her performance Eye Body, 1963—but I explore the image values of flash as material I chose to work with. The body may remain erotic, sexual, desired, desiring, but is as well votive: marked, written over in a text of stroke and gesture discovered by my creative feminine will.”10 23. Janine Antoni, Elke Krystufek, Paul McCarthy, Steven Parrino, Fabián Marcaccio, Beatriz Milhazes, Franz Ackermann, Carlos Bunga, Raúl Cordero, José Bedia, Francis Alys, Katharina Grosse, Vanessa Beecroft, Santiago Sierra, Crispin Gurholt, Gerhard Richter, Marc Bijl, Jan Fabre, Martin & Sicilia . . . 24. In Loving Care (1993), Janine Antoni mopped the floor of the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London on her hands and knees, with her hair dipped in hair dye. In the process she pushed the viewers out of the gallery space. Antoni parodied both the gestural stroke of Pollock and Yves Klein’s The Monotone Symphony. 25. Katharina Grosse’s spray painting, too, is like dying the wall, the floor, and the ceiling. Her site-specific interventions take total control of the space. Paraphrasing Austin we could say that it simultaneously changes the space by creating new situations. Her pictorial practice is performative all the way: you never know what the end result will be. Grosse inhabits the space, moves around the space, seduces the space, and maps the space. The use of a spray pistol “distances” her, according to Jonathan Watkins,11 from the classic idea of Jackson Pollock. (I always thought that if Pollock’s pouring and dripping was radical, the use of a paintbrush made it very classical in the end!)
One of the most bewildering aspects of Grosse’s practice is her use of color. It’s aggressive, volatile, utopian, kitsch, ironic, tragic, and psychologically layered. Gesture and color take its course, becoming a condition for creating a body that triggers unexpected associations. Abstraction reveals its own contradictions in a challenging manner. 26. Grosse: “There are certain habits that I’ve acquired, like starting in corners, or making fast movements with a light coat of paint—a little here, a little there—a lot of different colors and space to the present situation, remembering certain things, but they are just ideas, ideas of the past that I’ve made up in my mind. What I actually see, after having worked from memory, looks very different because I’m in another space and another reality. What I anticipate before making a spray painting looks very different to what I actually do. I might have all sorts of clever ideas beforehand, but then when I do it it’s not just executing something made up in my mind. Everything I do in my painting is based on a certain thought, followed by the next and so on –that’s what makes it so different from photography.”12 27. For many contemporary artists the “performative” has become performance and has expanded from there to other artistic mediums beyond painting like photography, video, and installation. 28. The Spanish artist duo Martín & Sicilia paint narrative tableaux in which the performative acts as a red line throughout the whole process: from stagings, settings, and atrezzos to the final pictorial installations. The performative is further enhanced in their work through their persistent omnipresence: whether it is painted inside the scene or in a standing version in front of it cut to scale and propped up like life-size paper dolls, it has a strong ironic and theatrical look to it. Martín & Sicilia’s strategy always departs from the personal to engage in collective topics like violence, immigration, injustice, and loneliness, seen through the lens of mass media (and even social media). The question the viewer is confronted with is: What are they doing there? Has it to do referentiality and Art History, or is there a hidden riddle we are missing?
Interpassivity13 and interactivity go hand in hand like comrades-in-arms. The trope of the tourist in contemporary art in particular, and in contemporary society in general, reveals the contradictory position of both the artist and the viewer: in his search for the “authentic” he is squeezed between existentialism and mass tourism. Amidst this contemporary chaos Martín holds the arm of Sicilia. There is disbelief and surprise. 29. Martín & Sicilia: “Performance and the performative relate to our artistic practice as this is our primary tool to conceive and stage our own images. Our preparatory work looks very much like a cinematic set. And then we just act and see what happens. We’ve done it in very different ways: from static to moving photo, that is, a small representation that we taped. Nevertheless, we never intended or saw our work as a performance as such. That has never been the idea.”14 30. Norwegian artist Crispin Gurholt creates critical works under a common umbrella titled Live Photo. Carefully staged, these photo-based settings reveal what’s under the surface of individual and collective relationships in contemporary capitalist society. Gurholt’s Live Photos have a strong performative element, but at the same time reveal a certain predisposition or, even, lust for the classical. If the staging process is totally submitted to an iron control, the painting’s final result as such is more open and random, although there is a direct connection with the former. 31. “It’s a funny thing. My models in the frozen tableaux vivants are live models restrained from action, but not completely dead, they have small movements. As for painting, I begin with a dead medium that I try to bring to life and to make it lively! I find these different approaches interesting to work with; the process creates different stories. I also feel that the medium of painting allows for more mysteries and fantasies, perhaps because paintings can always just be seen as paint on canvas, and nothing more. In turn, this enables the viewer to let their own emotions and fantasies contribute to creating stories more freely. So, with painting I find an increased possibility for new stories in my work.
I enjoy this process and find it intriguing to challenge myself in the making of my stories and work. What is an image, what story does an image really tell, and who am I in the story?”15
38. The contemporary subject has become performative but lonely in front of his/her screen. He/She yearns for life performances.
32. Marlene Dumas, Barkley L. Hendricks, Ghada Amer, Manuel Ocampo, Kara Walker, Wangechi Mutu, Cecily Brown, Chris Ofili, Lisa Yuskavage, Eric Fischl, Jenny Saville, David Hammonds, Joan Semmel, Archie Rand, Shahzia Sikander, Silvia Sleigh, Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall, Kudzanai Chiurai, Sue Coe, Masami Teraoka, Leon Golub . . .; in their pictorial practice aspects like race, gender, sex, and class are viewed through the lens of performativity.
39. This new utopia of the Internet and social media is killing old media.
33. Wangechi Mutu’s collages are provocative and disturbing at the same time. The woman she portrays is a strange mutant form, woman-animal-monster. Perverted, oppressed, and discriminated against, Mutu’s women speak of beauty and the female body, consumerism, race, and post-colonial identity. The black woman is presented either as a very traditional subject or as a hyper-sexualized pin-up taken from the pages of Playboy. Mutu challenges in an original manner the traditional and eccentric stereotypes of the West in their relationship to the other and otherness. 34. Kudzanai Chiurai also engages with performativity from a very straightforward and poignant perspective. Born in Zimbabwe, Chiurai moved to South Africa. His work has a strong political and social input and plays with representations of Africa and African dictators in the West. Both his series The Parliament and Republic are baroque stagings of fictional characters in which the artist addresses elements like power, consumerism, violence, despotism, and celebrity. Politics, propaganda, hip-hop, and popular culture blend in a highly ironical and satirical narrative. 35. Why all this fuss about the “performative”? 36. Not only painting and other artistic mediums have become “performative,” but society has become “performative” in general. 37. With the advent of the “blogosphere” and social media every one of us has become “perfomative”: twitting, posting messages, and images on Facebook, uploading videos on YouTube and Vimeo, chatting and sending sms on the I-phone . . .
40. How will this affect painting? 41. As we see from the artists mentioned here the re-articulation of the medium of painting is already happening, and will continue to move forward and develop at an even faster pace. At the same time, our own role and voice in the world, our empowerment as individuals, is ever-growing as technology connects us with more people at a more personal level. 1. For an elaborate explanation see Jon Simons, “Popular Culture and Mediated Politics: Intellectuals, Elites and Democracy,” in John Corner and Dick Pels (eds.), Media and the Restyling of Politics, SAGE Publications Ltd., London, 2003, pp. 171–189. 2. On the idea of the pictorial as “moving image” see Selene Wendt and Paco Barragán (eds.) When a Painting Moves . . . Something Must be Rotten!, Charta, Milan, 2011. 3. For me today’s art—be it video, installation, painting, performance, sculpture, the digital—is “performative” by nature and shouldn’t be called “performance” as performance belongs to the 1960s and 1970s with very clear traits referring intention, tone, hierarchy, and so on, which contemporary art has not. For a wider discussion of this topic see Paco Barragán (ed.), No lo llames Performance/Don’t Call it Performance, Museo del Barrio/Domus Artium (DA2), Salamanca, 2004, pp. 22–26. 4. John L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1975. 5. Ibid., Austin. 6. Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” Artforum 5, 10, 1967, p. 21. 7. Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, December 1988, pp. 519–531. 8. See Michael Rush, New Media in Late 20th-Century Art, Thames & Hudson, London, 1999, p. 36. 9. Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel, Jackson Pollock, 1998, MOMA, New York, p. 18. 10. Carole Schneemann, “The Obscene Body/Politic,” Art Journal, vol. 50, no. 4, winter 1991, p. 28. 11. Katharina Grosse and Jonathan Watkins, extracts from “How to Start and Stop Painting,” in Katharina Grosse, Edition Minerva Hermann Farnung, 2002, pp. 22–24, reproduced in Ferry R. Myers (ed.), Painting. Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery, London, and the MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011, pp. 161–162. 12. Ibid. 13. For a precise explanation of the concept “interpassivity” see Paco Barragán, “Culture of Interpassivity,” ARTPULSE, 10, winter 2011/2011, online version http://artpulsemagazine.com/push-to-flush-culture-of-interpassivity. 14. Email exchange with Martín & Sicilia on March 1, 2012. 15. Email exchange with Crispin Gurholt on March 1, 2012.
1. Printed papers have been subjected to similar negative forecasts following the introduction of kindle and other digital reading devices. While this unquestionably will affect the market, it is unlikely that books will vanish forever. Art books hold a fascination as objects and the ones about photography or painting, as the one you are holding right now, have the indisputable advantage of offering a definitive version of colors that no screen version will ever be able to provide.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken? A Few Reflections on Painting
Emancipated from the decorative and propagandistic role it had endured for centuries, battle-scarred but spiritually reinforced from competing with photography and film, painting has successfully held its ground, having fended off all the restrictions and assaults it has had to endure over time minus one—the chronic necessity to keep questioning itself. To a certain extent this could explain its longevity, as being constantly on alert is possibly the best survival tactic, but the amount of exhibitions and publications devoted to this cause over the past decade is astonishing. These exhibitions tend to embark on the most imaginative routes and theoretical discourses to inevitably reach the same conclusion, namely the impossibility of making a definitive statement about what painting really is. Having established a long time ago how the arrival of new representational forms doesn’t automatically translate into the elimination of existing ones,1 a great deal of time and energy has been directed at exploring readjustment and survival in the new climate. There was Examining Pictures at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (London, 1999), an exhibition that the curators, Francesco Bonami and Judith Nesbitt, quickly acknowledged as a possibility rather than a definitive analysis. This exhibition was delineated enough to generate a critical response with Luc Tuymans and Narcisse Tordoir’s Trouble Spot: Painting (MUHKA, Antwerp, 1999); there were interesting geographical variations, as Gianni Romano’s Europe: Different Perspectives on Painting (Museo Michetti, Francavilla, Italy, 2000), or Kari Immonen and Mika Hannula’s Stop for a Moment: Painting as Presence (NIFCA, Helsinki, 2002). Painting at the Edge of the World (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002) concentrated on the recurring resurgence of the media after a few precipitous declarations of death—a phenomenon the curator Douglas Fogle labelled the “Lazarus Effect.” Peter Pakesch’s Painting on the Move (Kunstmuseum Basel, 2002) addressed similar issues in a celebratory mood, saluting one hundred years (!) of contemporary painting. The Paris-based Dear Painter, Paint Me curated by Alison Gingeras at the Centre Pompidou and Urgent Painting curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville the same year, were soon followed by Phaidon’s Vitamin P, an overview that gained authority through a democratic nominating process, an outcome the rather crass-titled The Triumph of Painting (Saatchi Gallery, London, 2005) equally claimed by employing a diametrically opposite criteria. Most recently, attempts to investigate the present state of the two main lines that have defined painting in the 1900s have been seen or read in Ulrich Loock’s Images in Painting (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto, 2006), Veit Gorner and Frank Thorsten Moll’s Back to Black: Black in Current Painting (Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, 2008), Ralf Rugoff’s The Painting of Modern Life (Hayward Gallery, 2011), and Bob Nickas’s Painting Abstraction (Phaidon, 2011), and there is definitely more in store. Innovations and transitional periods deserve to be studied, and there is clearly nothing wrong with the idea of dedicating an exhibition or a publication to a specific medium. Such inflation though, even if caused by a chain reaction where every link tries to correct or expand on the reflections of the other, verges on trend seeking at its worst or quick historicizing at its best. The cautious lines adopted by the ma-
2. Digital synchronization has been instrumental for Nauman neon ensigns and especially for McCall’s films, practically resurrecting his career as an artist following a hiatus of almost twenty years. 3. Statistics about the number of painters present in international exhibitions are a recurring plague other media are fortunately exonerated from. The reactions to this have varied from the blatantly foolish, as the Stuckism protests that lace the Turner Prize every year attest, to the legalistic (Francesco Bonami’s idea to disconnect painting from the rest of the Venice Biennale in 2003 when he curated Pittura/Painting: From Rauschenberg to Murakami 1964–2003, a collateral exhibition at Museo Correr).
jority of the curators and writers seems to suggest that indefinable criticism runs parallel to indefinable genres, and while a good part of the motivations behind some of these efforts might have led to a turn of the millennium-frenzy, it is also true that generational turnovers, geo-political factors, and technological progress have modified the art map in a way that at least partially justifies this course of action. Above all, the evolution of digital techniques at the end of the 1990s brought additional fuel to the fire, but painting was too old a dog to take this challenge seriously, and now the headache is felt with photography and film, spreading the same alarmism that must have doomed painting and theatre when photography and film just started getting more popular. Tacita Dean captured this apocalyptic mood last autumn on the occasion of her solo show at Tate Modern, synthetically but poignantly called Film, where she expressed her concern about the increasingly limited access to film as digital technologies are now the norm and photochemical labs are closing down. Her monolithic installation in the Turbine Hall was a towering monument to this concept, and the accompanying publication included a collection of statements from various popular figures from the creative world advocating the importance of the analogue in the digital menace age. Although interspersed with a few nostalgic observations (it would have been interesting to invite contributions from some of the odd benefactors from this revolution, such as Anthony McCall or Bruce Nauman),2 the book featured many valid arguments and interesting philosophical considerations. Amongst those, American painter Matt Saunders noted how using egg tempera today, no matter how outdated, can still make sense simply if an artist feels like it, while music producer Joe Boyd recalled how the advent of the CD initially destroyed vinyl, only to be rediscovered about fifteen or so years later. Boyd points to the coldness and excessive cleanness of the digital sound as the principal reason why analogue music has been reappraised, and although there is certainly some truth to that, it is no coincidence that the decline of the CD effectively took place with the introduction of Internet downloading. Sound has played a pivotal part, but what ultimately put vinyl back in business was its object value, the infinite design possibilities it offered as opposed to the plastic box and reduced size that doom CD packaging; the tactile and visual appeal; the solidification of a series of songs into a single, coherent body of work; and the possibility of occasionally running into originally unwanted and unexpectedly interesting material instead of cherry-picking the few tracks the listener is interested in to decontextualize them even further in the flow of an IPod. This is not to say that Boyd was beating the bushes instead of the tree, but the excessive emphasis on technology has somehow been detrimental to understanding the real issue at stake. Similarly, 95% of the reviews on David Hockney’s exhibition RA: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2011 ignored the dark, romantic landscapes of the Yorkshire that he chose to represent, and instead harped on his decision to paint with an IPad—an eventuality that he accounted for in the simplest terms (“Landscapes are subjected to quick climatic and light changes. The IPad allows me to accurately sketch in five minutes what it would have taken hours before, without having to worry about snatching the odd carbon or paper getting wet”). In short, the endless debate on the role of painting today has backfired; involuntarily originating the same divisionism it proposed to destroy.3 Painting is a traditional medium open to interpretations and permutations, and as such, it enjoys a status that makes it impossible to deny it or ignore it. After modernism, a portion of art will unavoidably always be about art, but this doesn’t mean that painting has to be stuck in cultural isolation. It is a medium with too much history and integrity for that. Abstraction, realism, murals, portraiture, landscape, and whatever comes next were as valid forms yesterday as they are today and will be tomorrow, and how they compare to history or other media is as important as the narrative, the
zeitgeist, and the personality that informs them. More painting-only exhibitions will come, and they will be welcome. At this point it is important that they don’t ask: a) why people paint; and b) if it still does make sense to paint in this time and age. Foolhardy as it is to make long-term predictions in art, I think it’s safe to say that the answers to both questions are and will always be the same: a) people paint because of the unique way they can use painting to communicate complex and simple ideas, because of their love for it, and because of the possibility it gives to create a universe that no matter how close, cannot be matched but anything that exist in reality; and b) yes, it does still make sense in this time and age.
Artists Short Biographical Notes
Javier Barilaro was born in 1974 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he lives and works. He is a visual artist with a background in photography, design, sociology, and Argentinean history. He co-founded the artist-literary cooperative Eloísa Cartonera, whose practice involves publishing Latin American literature as handmade books made with photocopied pages and handpainted cardboard covers purchased from cartoneros (scavengers who collect scraps of cardboard for recycling). He participated in the 2006 São Paulo Bienal with Eloísa Cartonera, but also works independently as a painter and muralist. He has had solo exhibitions at Cosmocosa, Buenos Aires, Galeria Braga Menendez, Buenos Aires, The Argentine Embassy in London. Group exhibitions include Primera Exposicion de Arte Cartonero at Planta Alta, Asuncion, Paraguay, Tropicalísima at Centro Cultural Rojas, Buenos Aires, and Social Systems at The Exchange Gallery, Cornwall, England. He is represented by Braga Menendez Gallery, Buenos Aires. For more information see the gallery website: www.galeriabm.com
Kehinde Wiley The World Stage: Africa Mame Ngagne, 2008 Oil on canvas 66 x 55.9 cm Image courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California
Sverre Bjertnes was born in 1976 in Trondheim, Norway. He lives and works in New York and Norway. He graduated from The National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo in 1999. Bjertnes has exhibited throughout Norway, with solo exhibitions at Galleri K, Oslo, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum, Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum, Blomqvist Kunsthandel and Trondheim Kunstmuseum. His work has been shown internationally at Volta New York, The Scope Art Fair, Basel, Art forum Berlin, and Nanjing Art Center, China, as well as Galleri Rod Bianco, Copenhagen and in After Shelly Duval ’72 (Frogs on the High Line) at Maccarone, New York together with Bjarne Melgaard. Other group exhibitions include 62 Screams at Vestfossen Art Laboratory, Vestfossen, Tradition and Renewal at Northern Norway Art Museum, Tromsø, and Obituaries at Drammen Art Museum, Drammen together with Morten Viskum and Unni Askeland and 2x2x2 at Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden. For more information please see his website: www.sverrebjertnes.com Markus Brendmoe was born in 1961 in Oslo, Norway where he lives and works. He graduated from The National Academy of Art, Oslo in 1990, and also studied under Richard Warsinski.
Brendmoe has exhibited throughout Norway with solo exhibitions at Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo, The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Galleri SE, Bergen, The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, and Galleri UKS, Oslo. He also exhibited at Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, Egypt. Group exhibition include Daydreams and Nightmares: Works from Tor Juul’s Collection, The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, The Drawing Biennial, The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norwegian Art Now, Galleri Asbæk, Copenhagen, Art Through the Eye of the Needle, Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, and The Art of Drawing, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo. His work is included in important collections throughout Norway.
pere, the Second Biennial of the End of the World, curated by Alfons Hug, Ushuaia, Argentina. Group exhibitions include Land-Shape at Instituto Cultural de Las Condes, Santiago, Chile, Focus-Chile at The Embassy of Chile, Maison de l’Amérique Latine, Brussels, Belgium, Elements x 10 at Kelley Roy Gallery, Winwood Art District, Miami, Florida, and Untitled, Selected Chilean Contemporary Painting, curated by Camila Marambio, at Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile to name a few. She has also participated in AQUA, Miami, Arteba, Buenos Aires, Miami International Art Fair, Miami, Shanghai Art Fair, Shanghai. For more information see her website: www.patriciaclaro.com
Kudzanai Chiurai was born in 1981 in Zimbabwe. He lives and works in South Africa. Chiurai graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria. Chiurai has participated in numerous solo exhibitions in South Africa, including several exhibitions at Obert Contemporary, Johannesburg, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Group exhibitions include DakART, Senegal, Africa Now, a travelling exhibition in Scandinavia, Nation State, Goodman Gallery Cape Town and Johannesburg, and the Cairo Biennial, Cairo, Egypt. His recent work has been exhibited at Paris Photo, The Armory Show in New York, and Art Basel Miami Beach among other places. His work has also been featured in two major international exhibitions in 2011: Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where his work was also purchased for their collection. Chiruai is represented by Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. For more information please see the gallery website: www.goodmangallery.com
Katharina Grosse was born in 1961 in Freiburg/Breisgau, Germany. She lives and works in Berlin. Grosse has exhibited throughout the world, with solo exhibitions at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, Temporare Kunsthalle, Berlin, Palazzo dei Giardini, Modena, FRAC, Auvergne, Museu de Arte Conemporanea de Serralves, Porto, De Appel, Amsterdam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Kunsthallen Brandts Klædefabrik, Odense, Magasin 3, Stockholm, and UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California, to name a few. Group exhibitions include the 25 São Paulo Bienal, Brazil, Urgent Painting at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Taipai Biennial, Taipai, Prospect 1, New Orleans, Embrace! At Denver Art Museum, Denver, Space as Medium, Miami Art Museum, If Not in This Period of Time, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil, Berlin 2000-2011, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and The Indiscipline of Painting, Tate St. Ives, England. She also works as professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Grosse is represented by Helga de Alvear Gallery in Madrid. For more information please see her website: www.katharinagrosse.com
Patricia Claro was born in 1960 in Santiago, Chile, where she lives and works. She graduated from Pontificia Universidad Calólica de Chile, Santiago with a Bachelors in Visual Arts in 2005, where she currently teaches as a professor. She has exhibited throughout Chile, including several solo exhibitions at Galería Animal, Santiago. In 2011 she exhibited at Kelley Roy Gallery in Miami and also participated in Intem-
Crispin Gurholt was born in 1965 in Oslo, Norway where he lives and works. He graduated from The National Academy of Art, Oslo, in 1998, and also studied under Odd Nerdrum prior to that. He has had site-specific Live Photo projects at The Eleventh Havanna Biennial, Lillehammer Art Museum, The Stenersen Museum, Deviforme-Spazio Presente, Rome, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, 2007, Official Col-
lateral Event, and Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden among many other sites. He has also had solo exhibitions at Velan Center for Contemporary Art, Turin, The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Galleri K, Oslo, and Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden to name a few. Group exhibitions include Bang! Bang! at Art Foundation Mallorca, Mallorca, curated by Andrea Holtzerr, When a Painting Moves . . . at The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, curated by Paco Barragán, Rencontres Internationales at Centre Pompidou, Paris, also shown at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Gurholt is represented by Galleri, K, Oslo. For more information please see his website: www.transparent.nu Barkley L. Hendricks was born in 1945 in Philadelphia. He lives and works in New London, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut with both a BFA and MFA, and also attended The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Hendricks has exhibited extensively throughout the United States during the past few decades, with major solo exhibitions at Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, The Studio Museum, Harlem, The Project, New York, The Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, Santa Monica Museum of Art, California, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas to name a few. Group exhibitions throughout the world include 30 Americans: Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Building The Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke, curated by Trevor Schoonmaker, Self-Consciousness, curated by Peter Doig and Hilton Als, Michael Werner, Berlin, Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Day for Night: The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, to name a few. His work is included in important collections throughout the world. Hendricks works as Professor of Art, Connecticut College, New London, and has won numerous prestigious awards throughout his career. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New
York. For more information please see the gallery website: www.jackshainman.com Carlos Huffmann was born in 1980 in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he lives and works. He graduated from CalArts, Los Angeles, with an MFA in 2005. Huffmann has exhibited in South America and the US, with solo exhibitions at Espacio Joven Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires, Galería Alberto Sendrós, Buenos Aires, Galería Mite, Buenos Aires, Centro Cultural la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, as well as Galeria Luis Adelantado in Valencia, Spain to name a few. Group exhibitions include Shipping and Receiving, Los Angeles, CA, Supersonic 2, Los Angeles, Blemish, Luis Adelanto, Miami, Southern Exposure, Dumbo Art Center, Brooklyn, Travelling Show, The Jumex Collection, Beuys y más allá, Centro Cultural la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Narrativas Inciertas, MAMBA, Buenos Aires and Las Bestias, Macro Museum, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina to name a few. He is represented by Galería Ruth Benzacar, Buenos Aires. For more information please see the gallery website: www.ruthbenzacar.com Steinar Jakobsen was born in 1967 in Oslo, Norway where he lives and works. He graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo in 1993. Steinar Jakobsen has exhibited throughout Norway, with solo exhibitions at Galleri K, Oslo, Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, Norway, Zinc Gallery, Stockholm, and Bomuldsfabriken, Arendal, Norway, as well as Margaret Thatcher Projects, New York to name a few. Jakobsen has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including 40/40 at The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Artforum, Berlin, Volta, Basel, Scope, New York, Pulse, New York, ARCO, Madrid, The Stockholm Art Fair, Carnegie Art Award at Barbican Art Gallery, London, and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo. He has done several public commissions, including a project with Snøhetta Architects for the new Lysaker train station in Oslo. His work is included in important private collections throughout Norway. He is represented by Galleri K. For more information please see the gallery website: www.gallerik.com Brad Kahlhamer was born in 1956 Tucson, Arizona. He lives and works in New York. He grad-
uated from The University of Wisconsin, Fond du Lac and Oshkosh, with a BFA in 1982. Kahlhamer has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad, including solo exhibitions at Deitch Projects, New York, The Project Room, Galerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris, Andréhn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, Kantor/Feuer Gallery, Los Angeles, Galleria Francesca Kaufmann, Milan, Brad Kahlhamer: Almost American at Madison Art Center (now Madison Museum of Contemporary Art), Madison, Wisconsin, and Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. Group exhibitions include Postermat at The Hole, New York, Shooting Back at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Monuments for the USA at White Columns, New York, Monument to Now at The Deste Foundation: Center for Contemporary Art, Athens, Supernova at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Greater New York at PS1 MoMA, Long Island City, to name a few. His work is included in major collections throughout the world. For more information please see his website: www.bradkahlhamer.net Kerry James Marshall was born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama. He lives and works in Chicago. He graduated from Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, with a BFA in 1978, and received an honorary Doctorate from Otis in 1999. Marshall has exhibited extensively throughout the world during the past few decades, with major solo exhibitions at SFMoMA, San Francisco, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and Santa Monica Museum of Art, CA, to name a few. Group exhibitions throughout the US include 30 Americans: Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Contemporary Art from the Collection, MoMA, New York, Portraiture Now: Framing Memory, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, The Color Line, Jack Shainman Gallery curated by Odili Donald Odita, Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, A Historic Occasion: Artists Making History, MASS MOCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, Drawing from the Modern, 1975 – 2005, Museum of Modern Art, New York, the 2003 Venice Biennale, Splat Boom Pow: The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art, The Con-
temporary Art Museum, Houston, Documenta 10, Kassel, Germany, and The Whitney Biennial, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, to name a few. Marshall received a MacArthur Foundation Grant in 1997, and is represented in important collections throughout the United States. Marshall is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. For more information please see the gallery website: www.jackshainman.com Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She lives and works in New York. Mehretu received an MFA from RISD, Rhode Island in 1997. She has won numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellow grant in 2005. Mehretu has exhibited extensively throughout the world with exhibtions at The Project, New York, Art Pace, San Antonio, White Cube, London, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, REDCAT, Los Angeles, Museo de Art Contemporáneo de Castilla y Léon, Léon, Spain, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark, Deutsche Guggenheim Museum, Berlin, and The Guggenheim Museum, New York to name a few. Important group exhibitions include Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, MoMA, New York, Splat Boom Pow! The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art, 1970–2000, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and other locations, Poetic Justice, 8th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Africa Remix, Museum Kunst Palast Dusseldorf, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Hayward Gallery, London, and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Amercian Art, New York, the São Paulo Bienal, São Paulo, Collection in Context: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society, Second International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville, Prospect 1 New Orleans, On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, MoMA, New York, and In Praise of Doubt, Punta della Dogana, Venice to name a few. Mehretu is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and White Cube, London. For more information please see their websites: www.mariangoodman.com and whitecube.com Wangechi Mutu was born in 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya. She lives and works in New York. Mutu
received an MFA from Yale Univeristy, School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut in 2000, and a BA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science, New York in 1996. Mutu has exhibited throughout the world, with solo exhibtions at Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada, Gladstone Gallery, New York, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Kunshalle Wien, Vienna, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, Sikkema Jenkins Co., New York, SFMoMA, San Francisco, Miami Art Museum, Miami, Art Pace, San Antonio, Texas to name a few. Important group exhibitions throughout the world include The Luminous Interval, Guggenheim, Bilbao, The Modern Myth: Drawing Mythologies in Modern Times, MoMA, New York, Contemplating the Void, Guggenheim, New York, Dress Codes: The Third ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, International Center of Photography, New York, Collected, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, 30 Americans, Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Prospect.1 New Orleans, curated by Dan Cameron, The UNHOMELY: 2nd Biennial Contemporary Art in Seville, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, curated by Okwui Enwezor, Seville, Triumph of Painting, The Saatchi Gallery, London, Africa Remix, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany, travelled to Centre Pompidou, Paris and Hayward Gallery, London, We Are Electric, Deitch Projects, curated by Chris Perez, New York, Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, curated by Trevor Schoonmaker, The New Museum, New York, and Life’s Little Necessities: Johannesburg Biennale to name a few. Her work is included in important collections throughout the world. Mutu is represented by Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York. For more information please see her website: www.wangechimutu.com Elizabeth Peyton was born in 1965, in Danbury, Connecticut. She lives and works in New York. She graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1987. Peyton has exhibited throughout the world, including solo exhibitions at Gagosian, Paris, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, The Slaughterhouse, Deste Foundation Project Space, Hydra, Greece, and Sadie Coles HQ, London to name a few. Her exhibition Live Forever was shown at New Museum
of Contemporary Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitechapel, London; and Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, Netherlands among other locations. Important group exhibitions worldwide include Jack Smith: ‘Thanks for Explaining Me’,” curated by Neville Wakefield, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, In The Company of Alice, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, The Painting of Modern Life at The Hayward Gallery, Getting Emotional, ICA, Boston, curated by Nicholas Baume, Beginning Here: 101 Ways Visual Arts Gallery, New York, curated by Jerry Saltz, The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Fourth Sex: Adolescent Extremes, Pitti Imagine Discovery, Milan, curated by Francesco Bonami and Raf Simons, Drawing Now: Eight Propositions Museum of Modern Art, New York, Remix, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, and Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, curated by Klaus Kertess, New to the Modern; Recent Acquisition from the Department of Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by Laura Hoptman, Greater New York, PS1, Long Island City, New Work: Drawings Today, SFMoMA, San Francisco, Universalis, São Paulo Bienal, São Paulo, Brazil, and The Venice Biennale, to name a few. Her work is included in important collections throughout the world. Peyton is represented by Gavin Brown Enterprises in New York. For more detailed information please visit the gallery website: www.gavinbrown.biz Cristiano Pintaldi was born in 1970 in Rome. He lives and works in London and Rome. Pintaldi has participated in solo exhibitions throughout Europe, including Lucid Dreams curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, Official Collateral Event of the 54th International Biennale di Venezia, Venice, and has participated in numerous exhibitions at Sprovieri Progetti, London, FIAC, Paris, Galleria Franco Noero, Turin, to name a few. Group exhibitions throughout Italy include Il confine evanescente. Immagini italiane dalla pittura al digitale, curated by Anna Mattirolo at MAXXI, Rome, Percorsi riscoperti dell’arte italiana VAF – Stiftung 1947-2010, curated by Gabriella Belli and Daniela Ferrari at MART Museo di Arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto, Invito all’opera, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva at Il Ponte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy Melting Pop, curated by Gianluca Marziani
Contributors Short Biographical Notes
at Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Collezionismi a Torino, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Identità e differenze, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva for XIX Esposizione Internazionale della Triennale, Palazzo d’Arte, Milan, and Talatta Talatta, XXXVIII Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Contemporanea, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, Termoli, to name a few. His work is included in private and museum collections throughout Europe, including MAXXI, Rome. For more information about Cristiano Pintaldi please see his website: www.cristianopintaldi.com Martin & Sicilia were born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1974 and 1971, respectively. They live and work in Madrid, Berlin, and Tenerife. They graduated with a BFA from The University of La Laguna, Tenerife in 1998. They have exhibited throughout the world, with solo exhibitions at TEA, Tenerife Art Space, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Galeria Nina Menocal, Mexico, Galeria Ferran Cano, Barcelona, Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo, Brazil, Galerie de l’Oeil, Paris, and Galeria Miguel Marcos, Barcelona to name a few. Important group exhibitions including the 10th DakART, Senegal, the 8th Havanna Biennial, Cuba, and Postcards From Cuba, Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, Norway and participated in The Armory Show, Art Chicago, The Vienna Art Fair, ARCO 09, Art Miami, Pulse Miami, Art Cologne, Germany, The Dot Art Fair, London, Art Forum Berlin, to name a few. Their work is found in important private and public collections including Fundacion La Caixa, Barcelona, TEA, Tenerife Espacio de Arte, The Photography Center of Tenerife, and CAAM, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to name a few. For more information please see their website: www.martinysicilia.com Thaddeus Strode was born in 1964 in Santa Monica, California. He lives and works in Los Angeles. He graduated from Otis with a BFA in 1986. He also received a National Endowment for the Arts regional fellowship for the Visual Arts in 1992. Thaddeus Strode has exhibited throughout the world and has had solo exhibitions at Galleri K, Oslo, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Galeria Fortes Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil, Galleri Nils Staerk, Copenhagen, Galleria Gio Marconi, Milan, Galerie Michael Janssen, Cologne, Chicago Project Room, Los Angeles, TBA Exhibition Space, Chicago, Galleri Nicolai
Wallner, Copenhagen, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Luhring Augustine Hetzler, Santa Monica, to name a few. Important group exhibitions include Damascus, Rod Bianco, Oslo, Hearth, Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark, Comix, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark, VAC Colección Valencia Arte Contemporáneo, IVAM, Madrid, Imagination Becomes Reality. Part IV: Borrowed Images, Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Infinite Painting, Villa Manin, Codroipo, Udine, Italy, Central Station, collection Harald Falckenberg, La Maison Rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris, One Hundred Artists See God, organized and circulated by ICI (Independent Curators International), New York, curated by John Baldessari and Meg Cranston, and The Return of the Cadavre Exquis, The Drawing Center, New York, to name a few. Thaddeus Strode is represented by Galleri K, Oslo, Norway, and neugerriemschneider, Berlin. For more information please see the Galleri K website: www.gallerik.com Kehinde Wiley was born in 1977 in Los Angeles. He lives and works in New York and Beijing. He graduated with an MFA from Yale University, School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut in 2001. He received his BFA from San Francisco School of Art, San Francisco in 1999. Wiley has exhibited throughout the world, and his recent series The World Stage has been shown at Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Artpace, San Antonio, Texas, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Important solo exhibitions include Deitch Projects, New York, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas, Portland Art Museum, Portland, and The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, to name a few. Important group exhibitions include 30 Americans: Rubell Family Collection Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Global Africa Project Exhibition, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, New York Black Romantic, The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, to name only a few. His work is included in major public collections through the Unites States. Wiley is represented by Roberts & Tilton, Culver City. Please see Wiley’s website for more information: www.kehindewiley.com
Selene Wendt is a Norwegian art historian, curator, and writer who currently works as Director of The Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway. She has curated numerous international exhibitions, including Shirin Neshat Beyond Orientalism, Ghada Amer Reading Between the Threads, Liza Lou Leaves of Glass, Ida Lorentzen Views of a Room, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons Mil Maneras Para Decir Adios, Daniele Buetti Will Beauty Save the World, Abbas Kiarostami Shadows in the Snow, Ulf Nilsen Inside Out, and Crispin Gurholt Live Photo in addition to thematic group exhibitions such as Art Through the Eye of the Needle, which addressed the breakdown of barriers between art and fashion, A Doll’s House, which included artists whose works are influenced by doll symbolism, Equatorial Rhythms, which featured visual artists influenced by music, and Beauty and Pleasure in South African Contemporary Art which featured South African contemporary artists who create meaningful art with an emphasis on the visual. She has written and edited numerous exhibition catalogues and books, including Marianne Heske Heaven and Earth (Skira), Crispin Gurholt Live Photo II (Skira), When a Painting Moves . . . Something Must be Rotten! (Charta), as well as articles and essays for various international publications.
Knust – Kritiske fragment 2000-2006 (2008) and Gift – Fragmentarisk kritikk 2003-2009 (2010) and writes regularly for the online art journal Kunstkritikk and the newspaper Morgenbladet. Paco Barragán is an independent curator and Associate Editor of ARTPULSE Magazine, Miami. He is author of The Art to Come (Subastas Siglo XXI); The Art Fair Age (Edizione Charta); editor of Sustainabilities (Edizione Chara); and coeditor of When a Painting Moves . . . Something Must be Rotten! (Charta). Michele Robecchi is a writer and curator based in London. Former Managing Editor of Flash Art (2001–2004) and Senior Editor of Contemporary Magazine (2005–2007), he is currently an editor for contemporary art at Phaidon Press, a Visiting Lecturer at Christie’s Education, and London Editor of Mousse Magazine. He has curated TIP: Trends Ideas Projects, Beauty So Difficult, and was one of the curators for the 1st and 2nd Tirana Biennale (2001–2003).
Trevor Schoonmaker is the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. He is the exhibition curator and editor of Nasher Museum of Art exhibition catalogues The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool, and Street Level: Mark Bradford, William Cordova and Robin Rhode. He is also the exhibition curator and editor of Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and D Troit: The Art, Music, and Culture of the Motor City, as well as editor of Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway. Tommy Olsson is a Swedish artist, curator, art critic, and musician who lives in Oslo and Bergen. He has published books including
20 To find out more about Charta, and to learn about our most recent publications, visit www.chartaartbooks.it Printed in April 2012 by Bianca & Volta, Truccazzano (MI) for Edizioni Charta