Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unfreedom opens in Ulm

I'm happy to announce that Unfreedom opened today in Ulm.

Here's our press release (which I wrote).


Molly Stevens, Carin Riley, Jean Hannon Douglas

July 21 - September 24

Smudajescheck Galerie, Rabegasse 16, 89073, Ulm, Germany

Entrenched is the habit of looking at art through dualistic categories: abstract or figurative, pencil or paint, light or dark. These can certainly be helpful as conceptual tools for approaching visual language. But they also can be arbitrary, simplistic and at times even tyrannical. As they pile up, a work’s immediate, nameless punch is crushed. The art is unfree. Free your mind and the art will follow.

Now consider these words uttered in a 1974 lecture by artist Philip Guston:
When you begin painting you’re too free. That’s why it’s always so painful to start a new picture, or to start the process again, because you have to go through the whole thing again and again. To get rid of the freedom, you might say. I think what is happening is that you’re getting to a state of unfreedom. […] And paradoxically, when you can only do this and not that […] you’re more free in some mysterious, metaphysical way.
Unfree your mind and the art will follow.

Unfreedom is an exhibit about this contradiction inherent in art-viewing and art-making. And also about the vibrancy of contradiction itself.

Carin Riley’s dry pastel and paint drawings communicate like a visual koan, a paradox admitting no logical solution, but demanding intuitive understanding. In the narrative here involving a bird, a dress and a tree, her lines are lithe but solid, fluid but unwavering. The work obeys the dictates of form and movement, which are in a delicate balance.

In Jean Hannon Douglas’s plants, the leaves are uncertain, erratic, quirky, and as such, represent the impermanent individuality of the repeated subject. At the same time, what you’re looking at is elemental brush and ink, its strokes, bleeds and varying densities of black. We are in between representation and material properties, illusion and marks on a page.

Molly Stevens’s heads in oil stick are meaty, simplified forms rendered with vigor. Although bound to the Ancients and even pre-history, they are decisively contemporary. Their saturated color and sturdy linework are bold yet unexpected, simultaneously familiar and out of whack.

These three Americans have come together not in the name of freedom but to defend unfreedom, a deferment to conflict.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

(James Castle, Untitled (blue house) 20th c.)

I’m just back home after 10 days of subletting. My apartment feels foreign. A friend suggested I pee in the corner to reclaim my territory.

I’ve spent the past hour positing things around the house in a faux-haphazard way in an effort to re-create my home. It’s fiction, really. Maybe home is a place we make up.

Businesses do it all the time: they create an environment to remind you of somewhere that has made you feel comfortable. Or maybe it’s an environment you fantasize about. Really, it’s all Epcott center mini-worlds.

And I’m thinking art does the same. It’s a place we make or see that feels right, but it’s all made up. Narratives and portraits, but also abstract images. Whatever our intention, it’s an order, a metaphor, a gesture we approve of, whether bleak or dreamy. Either way, it’s entirely personal, and comes off, from an objective standpoint, as arbitrary.

Monday, July 18, 2011


(Matt Jones, 2011)

Ok, fine. Maybe I’ll start blogging again.

I’ve joined the IDP Art Group, which meets every other week. We meditate a bit then talk about art (that I know about) in a way that makes sense to me.

I’m noticing two divides, neither unconquerable, neither surprising, but then yes, surprising, because they are so obvious. One is age, the other is gender. Today just a bit about the former.

I’m somewhere in the middle in terms of age (I’m 39), but I’m clearly not among the youngest. (One girl said to me (in a discussion about Cory Archangel), “For MY generation, Mario Brothers was part of how we grew up. She apparently thinks of me as her mom). The youngest seem to want art to push the envelope and break away from art history. Sure, I can see the appeal, although I don’t think newness is really that new, or that interesting as a focus. What I want to feel is a spirit in what I see. It’s hard to describe what I mean by that word, often an eye-roller. One member (on the older side of our spectrum) explained feeling wowed by the release of a Christopher Wool spray painted arch. I get it. Release is a good word to qualify spirit. In my mind, medium, technology, even subject, are vehicles.

One dude, younger, but not the youngest, has made drawings of his iPhone weather page. He finds pleasure in waking up to sixty-nine (degrees). Sure. I do like this drawing, but I find more long-lasting pleasure in the marker marks, the color, the touch, which are the difference between a drawing and the impersonality of the weather screen. So in this case, the spirit, is the person’s twist.