Thursday, November 19, 2009

A talk with Carin Riley

(Philip Guston, Untitled (Cup), circa 1969-1973)

If anything on the Donkey Trail can be a sure thing, Carin Riley is a sure thing Donkey Trail artist. Wait till you see her paintings!

This week we went gallery hopping. Listen in:

Molly Stevens: Carin, we saw some pretty monumental work this week.

Carin Riley: Yes we did. Best of all was Philip Guston (McKee Gallery).

MS: I'd have to agree. When I came off the elevator and saw some of those small panels through the door, I think I threw up my arms and cheered.

CR: Yes, they were small paintings but the feeling was very large. That took me by surprise.

MS: Do you think it's because the images and the paint have such a sturdy presence that they feel large?

CR: They were small, but magnified. I noticed the animation and articulation of line more than the narrative. It seemed a whole world in a brush stroke; very confident painting with a hesitant line.

MS: It’s true. His lines are very alive, they have personality. It's funny that you say "very confident painting with a hesitant line," because that seems contradictory. How could confidence involve hesitancy? I get this somehow, but how would you explain it?

CR: I think that’s what makes him interesting. Following the lines in his work you can really see that he knows art history; although the paintings appear very linear, he packs a lot of Cézanne into a stroke. I’m going out on a limb, maybe, but that’s what occurred to me as I was looking at them. I’ve always been attracted to a continuous line in painting, but I was impressed how confidently he painted a broken line. Before, I had only noticed how he stitched a line, like in the white-hooded figures.

MS: I know he was very interested in De Chirico and also Pierro della Francesca. In terms of Cézanne, I think there’s a similar subjective-ness that doesn’t have a me, me, me quality; a kind of dispassionate observation of self.

Let's get concrete, though. We were really into this painting here:

(Philip Guston, Untitled, circa 1969-1973)

CR: This was my favorite painting in the show. It’s a very confident, worried painting with a lot of control and direction. The figure really does appear to be moving and resisting at the same time. At first I thought it was because of how he had used the large brush strokes in the background; and also because of the appearance of the underpainting pushing the figure forward. But then I realized that it was the short, animated red strokes. That’s where he threw himself into it.

MS: Here again, we have that contradiction. Confident and worried at the same time. Maybe he was confident about being worried. I like when you say "that's where he threw himself into it." I hear by that, that's where he took a risk.

CR: I mean exposed more of himself. It seemed more vulnerable to me than the other white hooded “selfs” in the show. The hoods are a bit of a mask. Not this one.

MS: I think we can compare:

(Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1900)

CR: Yes this figure is his Mont Sainte-Victoire. N'est-ce pas? That’s a very confident mountain that Cézanne knew so well and painted in a very human way. And Guston painted this little figure that he knew so well with great assurance.

MS: With great assurance but also with shakiness, with questions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Visual Appreciation

(click on image to enlarge)
(Andrea Mantegna, San Zeno Altarpiece (left panel), The Agony in the Garden, 1457-1459)

What a fantastic dead tree. Note the mushrooms at the bottom. They are familiar almost to the point of touch. I’m also bewildered by the ethereal body of the angel in the top right: truly other-worldly, reminiscent of vanishing deities in Tibetan art.

(Andrea Mantegna, The Adoration of the Shepherds, circa 1450)

The stumpy tree is really nice in the background of this Mantegna too. And how about that arched rock! Reminds me of the island of Staff in Scotland.

Which reminds me again of another Agony of the Garden by Mantegna (1460).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

A gallery twice forwarded my request to do a studio visit with one of its artists. I never heard from her.

I emailed an artist I kind of like requesting the same, having procured his address from his website. I never heard from him.

I visited an artist at her studio. We were together for two hours, wrapped in conversation, looking and sharing. She has not responded to my follow up email.

I emailed a friend who’s an artist about her work. Twice. Nothing.

This is a 4/5 person show in Chelsea gallery folks. Um...

I’m not going to beg. This may just end up being a three-person show. And probably the better for it.

David Hockney painting in plein air? No, there's nothing wrong with that picture at all. A show of recent landscapes is currently at PaceWildenstein on 25th.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Road Runner

(Hadrian's Wall)

Nils Folke Anderson: I’ve been thinking through some ideas for donkey trail.

Molly Stevens:Like what?

NFA: Well, for one thing, there's the idea of site-responsiveness, that relates to donkey trails I think.

MS: Sculptors talk a lot about site-responsiveness, I’ve noticed.

NFA: What have you been thinking?

MS: About site-responsiveness?

NFA: About the work/artists you've been seeing, the progress of the idea and show. Let's talk about that first and then site responsiveness.

MS: Deal. Actually, I'm a bit confused about the idea at this point, and I'm not sure what to do with the blog anymore.

NFA: Getting some dry mango…

MS: Yum.

MS: What does Donkey Trail mean for you these days?

NFA: A very rich idea to mull over and also to mull over with you.

MS: What's the idea again? I'm not being facetious.

NFA: Maybe more an image than an idea I suppose, of a donkey carrying something and making a trail in the process; or an image of a trail that a donkey makes and how that relates to what we're making and looking at. For example that site-responsiveness: on one hand I guess one could say that a donkey trail is site-responsive, that a donkey has limitations in terms of the terrain it can handle and it makes its way in the straightest line possible given the site.

MS: Right.

NFA: But then I’ve been thinking about the Le Corbusier essay we talked about as well. Using caterpillar tractors and dynamite to make big orthogonals is also a response to a site...

MS: Right The way I’ve been thinking about it is: when I make something, there's a figuring out as I go along, and that's donkey trail-ish. But, other than that, I'm at an impasse. Except that I was thinking of a visual presentation (like my text talk) but about the line. I was thinking [CONFIDENTIAL INFO].

NFA: There's also an aspect of patience and perseverance that I like.

MS: In making art, you mean?

NFA: And with donkeys.

MS: Right.

NFA: And a sense of humor.

MS: I agree.

NFA: And of simply doing one's best and making one's way.

MS: That's what art-making feels like. But, in your mind, how does this all translate into concrete terms, like actually making something, asking people to make something, writing about it. I think this is where I’ve been feeling lost.

NFA: I think some lack of clarity is part of the idea. This can get precious and annoying really easily, but it’s possible to be principled and rigorous and interesting and still not know exactly where things are heading.

MS: I agree. It can also be stressful.

NFA: And in concrete terms, a big part of this for me is simply finding an occasion to write, and discuss art with you.

MS: Ah, that sounds good! Have you been thinking at all about what you'd like to make for the show?


MS: I love that idea. I don't think artists want "curators" to help them develop an idea though too much. So I don't know what role to play here. So, wanna just talk about art?

NFA: I think your role is to simply make happen what you want to have happen. Mine too.

MS: Not sure what that is sometimes.

NFA: I have some ideas.

MS: Like what?...I am working on humongo drawings though.

NFA: amazing group show with tons of reviews; brisk sales of your work, gallery representation, museum shows, a community of artists, a lively presence as a blogger, a solo show of humongo drawings, etc.

MS: That puts a lump in my throat.

NFA: But is that along the lines of what you're aiming for, generally? I don't think these are the "right" or wrong goals, by the way. And I think the goals for the show are more particular and specific, but should be aligned with what we're aiming for generally.

MS: Of course! That's pretty much what I want exactly. So, you're hoping for the same with this show?

NFA: For the show, I hope it's something that- if I'd had no involvement in it- I’d still want to go see.

MS: Well put. I think a lot of this can be discussed on the blog; even if there's no correlation really with organizing the show, or maybe even the show itself.

NFA: Agreed.

MS: It's like the show is one thing. But the possibilities of the blog are far wider. Although I like seeing more than reading in many respects. And what you see, you can’t read in many regards.

NFA: On that note, I’ve been thinking about donkey trails vs. caterpillar tractor trails. Maybe we could have an ongoing post of images of each? This is getting at two modes of mark making or organization or response. For example, a road is typically a caterpillar trail, but then again a caterpillar tractor sometimes makes trails like a donkey. Does that make any sense?

MS: It does. In the south of France, the roads sometimes go around the mountain in a coil, and sometimes they just go right through the damn thing.

NFA: Precisemont (sp?)

MS: Close enough.

NFA: Not a good word to misspell.

MS: Road runner.

NFA: Indeed.

MS: Also a cartoon character running through a wall leaving his imprint. By the way, I'm reluctant to see Urs Fischer.

NFA: How come?

MS: I have a fuck you attitude to the hip and famous.

NFA: I’m pretty psyched to see it. Hype aside, I like his work.

MS: Yeah, I do too! I'm just jealous. Ah, all of Molly's lovely sides are coming out today.

NFA: So go beat him to the next punch!

MS: I’ve been thinking about it. But I think it's a fight I'm not up for. I'd rather just focus on what I'm doing. You going to give him a run for it?

NFA: Yeah, by just focusing on what I’m doing.