Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What do you call these forms?

Shoots, spurts, jets, fingers,bobs, dicks, people?
(Molly Stevens, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 20" x 20")

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bigger not better (in this case)

(Matisse, 1950, drawing for the Vence chapel)

I’m attempting my first mega-size drawings (4 feet by 5 feet). Blimey! One problem is not having a sense of the whole page as you’re working, an understanding of where you’re at, how one form relates to another. Instead, you have to kind of enter the page. Or in my case, get swallowed up by it. A friend told me, “you have to put your whole body into it.” Indeed the experience is physical. There’s simply no way to have your thinking mind dominate. This has both its advantages and disadvantages.

Any tips welcome. I already have a step ladder.

When Matisse was ill, he concocted a long bamboo pole-cum-pencil so that he could draw from his bed. I just love the distance from the page and the lightness of touch this tool offered.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


(Raoul de Keyser, Hill, 1981)

The Raoul de Keyser show at David Zwirner consists of two rooms of drawings from 1979-1982, and one with recent small paintings. The work has a very human quality, presenting delicate forms described in thin layers. It’s evident that the artist has patiently germinated the shapes, not only on the surface of the canvases, but as sculptures; the rectangles are particular and intimate, and the canvas wraps around the stretchers like a present. Yet none of this is precious.

But the installation: there’s so much air in this antiseptic space, you feel like you’ve entered gallery purgatory.

Purgatory: a place of purification on the way to heaven. Sounds like the word “purge” is in there. So, here I go.

Belgium. Raoul de Keyser is from Belgium.

I have a personal connection to the country because I spent a hunk of my childhood there among an old and dying generation of self-described Wallons. This big-bossomed crowd was quite vocal (in French) about their deep disdain toward the Flemish, their language and culture, which in the 70s, had just become dominant. Their prejudice lodged itself somewhere deep in my subconscious mind. Sluice.

Luc Tuymans. I assume he’s Flemish, so I’ve decided not to like his work, which I’ve never seen except for in books.

Raoul de Keyser, judging from my praise above, has got to be a French-speaking Belgian. A Real Belgian.

Francis Alys. I bet he’s Flemish, but I like his work. Problem.

Bert Teunissen. I love his photographs (that's one above), which act as a Wallon Family Album for me. But I think he’s Flemish. Wait, he’s from the Netherlands. That’s ok.

James Ensor. He must be French-speaking because he’s old. Dead, in fact. Although I don’t like the work all that much, I’ve got to tip my hat to it.

Magritte. Good for Belgium, good for me.

Jacques Brel. Score for our team. Hey Luc, seems like we’re winning this one.

(Flag of Wallonia)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mini Gallery Crawl

What did I like about these two shows? Not fluff, not irony, not kitsch, but personal imagery that is a tad melancholy but not in a self-important way.

Michael Williams at Canada.

Matthew Chambers at Rental (closed).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Can you believe this is what Urs Fischer looks like? (I scanned the pic from this week’s New Yorker, which includes a Calvin Tomkins piece about him). I don’t know, I expected something a little less casual. And fewer tattoos. Maybe you need tattoos to show at the New Museum?

(Elizabeth Payton, 2004)

Now Luc Tuymans looks exactly like what I expected. Icy cold. Maybe not something you want in your living room.

In a really nice article in today's Times about the writer Peter Dexter, it says:
Though he has friends who are writers, among them Richard Russo and Padgett Powell, he generally has a hard time with the success of others. “Jealousy’s the wrong word for what I usually feel,” he said. “It’s closer to hoping they get hit by a car.”
Back to covers. You know who really fits the part?

Monday, October 12, 2009


(Philip Guston, Untitled, 1973, Oil on masonite)

A pattern has emerged: I’ll finally get a dealer to agree to come over and look at some work. The date is set usually a week or so in advance. Up until the moment of the visit, I’m engaged in a flurry of activity: I pump out just one more piece, I’m up and down ladders adjusting lights, I’m arranging piles of drawings, I’m preparing documentation on the computer, I’m all excited. The dealer comes. We have a decent chat. He or she leaves. I immediately get into bed and take a nap. I’m depressed for a week. I’m convinced I’m in denial about my artmaking. Wake up and smell the coffee.

From this state of mind, I usually turn to Philip Guston, especially Dore Ashton’s critical study. He always thrills me. But I suspect I’m just a wanna be. Get your own voice, girl.

I could quote the whole book, so I’ll just open it at random and give you what I find:
He often recounted the events around his first exhibition of the hooded rampagers, and he always mentioned the response of Willem de Kooning, one of the few painters who congratulated him wholeheartedly: “Philip,” he said, “do you know what the real subject is?” And Guston told how both exclaimed at the same time, “Freedom!” Guston added, “That’s the only possession the artist has – freedom to do whatever you can imagine.”

(Molly Stevens, [Untitled], 2009, Acrylic on masonite)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We interrupt this program...

I just love chicken wings so much, especially when they’re dripping in spicy BBQ sauce and dipped in blue cheese. I have them with a Jameson or two or three at my local sports bar, where I can enjoy watching a game.

All this to say, there’s nothing better than baseball. It’s a perfect game of suspense where anything can happen within the confines of a set of rules. Plus, a great equalizer of sorts, it is the foundation of my conversations with men who usually consider me an elitist or snob.

Long live the playoffs. Enjoy.

Monday, October 5, 2009


(Bernard-Henri Lévy in the Times looking like a kook)

I’ve always had something against the Times’ chief art critic Michael Kimmelman because he never likes anything at all, and he’s always sure he’s right about that. Problem is, his arguments are usually pretty convincing. I mean, if you were to disagree with his opinion piece in yesterday’s paper about the Roman Polanski case, you’d basically be depraved beyond hope.

In the article, he presents a despicable picture of a tight knit club of French intellectuals and artists who consider morals “yada yada” and who get away with murder – literally – because their important contribution to culture calls for it. At the end of page two, you say to yourself “thank god I’M not like that.”

OK fine. But why do I always feel that he’s not in it for us but against us? Do we have a cultural dis-advocate at the helm of one of the world’s most powerful media outlets? Might a two-page article on what role this French cultural elite does play be more – I don’t know – inspiring?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Donkey Trail

Read my conversation with Alyssa Pheobus on the Donkey Trail. Good stuff about authenticity, chance and drawing.