This weekend the PROVINCETOWN CONTEMPORARY ART PREVIEW 2012 closes at the new Artcurrent NY space in Tribecca. There will be a closing reception on Friday April 6 from 6-8 PM (at the same time as Launch F18 opens its new exhibition) and hours on Saturday April 7 from 4-8 PM.

Clark Derbes at Artcurrent NY

This show includes work from Artcurrent’s curators Dorothy Palanza and Tina Trudel, Gallery Ehva in Provincetown and Schoolhouse Gallery artists Adam Davies, Clark Derbes, Mike Carroll, Leslie Murray and Michelle Weinberg. Artcurrent NY is at 373 Broadway, Suite E20 i(3 blocks below Canal) in New York.

Paul Stopforth

Paul Stopforth, Bethedsa: installation view

Last week a Drawing Show went up at the museum in Provincetown. Curators Breon Dunigan and Joe Fiorello included a set or works on paper from Paul Stopforth. All titled ‘Bethesda’, they are made with Gouache, Graphite and Milk Paint, are part of Stopforth’s Robben Island Series of images made in response to a stay and study of Nelson Mandela’s infamous prison island off the coast of South Africa. The subject here is a tidal pool on the island that at one point was used as by a leper colony as a place to bathe and heal. Stopforth’s subjects are most often places or objects of transformation. His early career in South Africa saw work that responded directly and with great courage to Apartheid. Many paintings since have depicted terrain (Stopforth is a collector of terrains) where specific political or cultural shifts have taken place, presented with the artist’s renderings of these occurrences. Still later his subjects have been objects or places now considered sacred by their making, handling, location or provenance (Mandela’s soap and towels for example). Stopforth does not suggest interpretation or cast morality which allows these subjects to become symbols of that which they attempt to interpret.

Bethesda 4 pieces at Provincetown Art Association & Museum

Paul tells me that he had chosen to use milk paint and gouache to make the Robben Island images for their texture as the place itself was so dry and acrid. The drawings at PAAM are begun with open washes, swipes or reveals that wiggle under the thumb of the term ‘background’ because they interact with the foreground or central subject in different ways. Using a logic begun in a series of diptychs from 2007 that were designed to quite literally open the mind and disallow one pointed or didactic looking Stopforth’s subjects (or figures) embrace, wrestle, tumble, welcome and compete with the fore and back grounds. The two often morph into one another in surprising ways – a meeting ground for two distinct mark making styles. The open wash of the background uses gesture and chance to locate Paul in proximity in art history to certain schools of painting and thought – Gerhard Richter in this case. The contrasting hyper real rendering of the subject or foreground also create an open minded stance and an interesting visual and visceral tension. It also softly suggests two or more kinds of time in the work; the quick spontaneity of the gestures, the lengthy, meditative exactitude of the tidal pools, and the sense of time implicit in and impossible or endless landscape.

This ability to operate with great warmth and humanity, to make art that is alive with history and contemporary urgency within the formal choices Paul Stopforth makes prior to beginning the work sets the stage for the viewer. I have always thought of these works as male for the ways that they generate warmth and earthly strength, something that is both misunderstood and maligned by the very patriarchy that stands mute in response to this artist’s depth of skill.

It’s important to acknowledge the programming at the museum here as one that will mount such thoughtful work. Director Chris McCarthy has reverence for the history of Provincetown and its great and local masters, its formidable teachers, and enthusiastic learners. She understands how to work with regionalization without being encumbered by contextualization. Primarily she understands that legacy is always happening now, a viewpoint that is essential to keeping Provincetown alive and part of the larger conversation between artists, curators, media and collectors. She also views galleries as partners and not as competition, something that is not always typical or reciprocal. Provincetown’s legacy is alive in the work of curators like Dunigan and Fiorello, in Directors like McCarthy, and in artists like Paul Stopforth.

Break, 2011 Gouache & Acrylic on Panel 13x36"

Paul continues work on a new series of images of Provincetown’s breakwater. Reasoning that his relocation from South Africa to the US in 1988 saw him wash ashore at this recognizable structure (and terrain) it has become his most recent subject. These paintings are available at the gallery now.

December in Miami

Recently I was in Miami at the annual Art Basel Fairs. I was at Dolan Maxwell’s booth there at INK, the paper/print fair with Margo Dolan and Ron Rumford. It’s a pleasure I look forward to each December that gives me entry to DM’s world of rich and interesting prints and an opportunity to spend time with Ron, a dear friend. INK draws a large crowd of lookers, serious collectors and industry folks. For anyone who shares my love paper and paper happy media this is a very physically satisfying place to be.

 

I arrived in Florida on the Monday evening of fair week and got to the hotel on Tuesday morning for set up, driving into Miami on that wildest of rides: Route 95. Anyone who knows this road knows it’s a lawless free for all, though for the purposes of this trip it may also have been an apt gateway into the weekend; building excitement, sharpening the senses, raising the stakes and exposing me to the color, light, temperature, and architecture that serves as inspiration and backdrop for many Miami based artists.

I’ve been coming to Miami for about a decade to investigate what’s made there, who makes it, and how it defines the culture. At first sight I was as enamored as most first time visitors. The city is bright and alive with an intertwined core of talent surrounded by interested gallerists, patrons, developers and architects that work to get the work seen in a variety of public and private spaces. There is a theatrical aspect to the street life, which can be as gamey as it is gorgeous. The architecture both hunkers and bunkers in response to the heat and rises in celebrates of new thought and modernism with great flair, sometime with too many voices to be clear. The Latin culture has been landed upon by the American Midwest and Northeast, and there is a hem of European décor sewn around the edge of the etiquette. I felt an invigorating sense of simultaneously dropping in and dropping out.

Over the next few years I explored the family collections. Rubell, Maguilles, de la Cruz and some others drive the city from a different source in a new direction. But I remained confused and was often challenged by what seems a necessary departure from the artistic standards I’d unconsciously adopted from years in the northeast. The closer I got to a central artery the more insubstantial things seemed and the use of materials seemed not to be driven by ‘high’ and ‘low’ (a welcome relief from the academic semantics that strangle so many artists) but by passion, devotion, collection, movement, temperature and texture. Nonsense and the narrative. I saw lots of work I would have left behind in New York studios and some really magnificent stuff too. Violence and humor.

It was only last year sitting in a lecture at the de la Cruz Collection when I experienced a shift. The presenter had put the audience off enough so that most were bored. Restless too, I checked out the crowd and saw all kinds of Miami there when suddenly the space just opened up. What helped was that the night before I’d had dinner with a Cuban friend and the conversation had turned to what it is like to live a life interrupted; a life in a new and foreign place often imposed on children, many times without reason or explanation. There are many stories of success and many of struggle but I was imprinted with the feelings of being lost in a new land.

So there I was sitting at this lecture in this space that just all of a sudden opened up, the one I was finally able to share with the other people in that room. I imagined it as dark and endless, made of a lack of light and coolness, with the scale define by noise rather than light and perspective. I looked around the galleries and saw the art differently and possibly for the first time. This bright, colorful, often unpleasant detritus was being made either to fill or to explain that space….that lost dark place of being displaced.

I guess I’m old and traditional enough to prefer a way into work, or maybe not. Maybe I can also be impassive but it seems that the work I’ve seen in Miami does not want to allow me to relate to it as an object but rather as some situation or as part of something ongoing that is less like a dialogue and more like blood or oil, flowing and filling corners and dark and beautiful and repulsive and insistent.

At INK on Tuesday we spotted the hang and reviewed the work, a section from Stanley William Hayter to Judith Rothchild to Steve Ford and many others. There was a breakfast reception on Wednesday morning after which all roads led to the big fair. On Friday I went with friends to Basel, Design Miami and saw Aqua. I only wish I’d seen more of Art Miami which is now the recipient of consistent praise during the fairs. Pulse also gets a nod as does Aqua. I was also thrilled to hear that Michelle Weinberg’s Available Space project at Pulse did well.

On Saturday Ron and I ran over to look at Aqua, also located on Collins Ave. a few blocks south of Ink. I headed for Gregory Lind’s room. I enjoy what he selects and presents and saw some new work from Chris Corales that did not disappoint with Lind’s eye for formal work fulfilled with warm and honest materials.

We also met Ree Willaford and her husband Jason at Galleri Urbane. Ree and Jason had set an alive and articulate installation in an artfair-world of squishy and pungent material. It was apparent right away that they love the work they represent and what they do for their artists. We particularly enjoyed an installation of six stacked paintings by Gail Peter Borden. I also continue to love the work of Don Voisine at McKensie Fine Art who also had some work from Gary Peterson which was great to see in person.

So what does it say that I was blown away by the brand new electric Audi at Design Miami? Maybe I just caved from being surrounded by so many beautiful people, so much lustful marketing and my love of Audis in general. I even touched this shiny prototype after one of the spokesmodels told me not to. Funny was that she shamed me but her expression and demeanor didn’t change at all. We bonded beneath the skin in a moment of shared apathy for our respective actions.  The rest of that fair was fast and fun though it seemed a bit thin, like the organizers had sacrificed something possible for the customary huge expanses of space we’ve come to need to surround Le Corbusier furniture and its many younger relatives.

Driving north on Sunday I felt like an addict after a fix, now older than that memory and suffering painful knees rather than more acute consequences. I had not been in contact with friends all week, and other business obligations had been set aside, I had barely addressed my own care having eaten badly and pushed through low moments with sweet Cuban coffee, certainly my home and lover wanted for some care and attention. And I thought,’ I love this unusual life that is made in chapters and fed from looking’.

 

Arts Week on WOMR

Recently I was the guest of Jeannette de Beauvoir on her weekly WOMR radio show where she  reports on what’s going on, tells about not-to-be-missed shows and exhibits, and generally celebrates the best of what the outer Cape is about all year round. She also has a guest. Jeannette de Beauvoir is an award-winning novelist and playwright whose work has appeared in 17 countries and been translated into 15 languages. She lives and writes in an old sea captain’s house in North Truro village with one cat, two lovebirds, and thousands of books. Email her at Jeannette@customline.com.

Here is a segment of the recent show where I was Jeanette’s guest . Have a listen:
Recording of WOMR on 20111110_123437_690

Sharon Horvath

An Image from Sharon Horvath on view now at Lori Bookstein Fine Art

10/20/2011  I attended the reception for LOVELIFE, the exhibition of new works by Sharon Horvath at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in Chelsea on Thursday night. New York was running at perfect pitch with just-after-sunset light over the High Line backdropping for the streets below the park which were just lighting up for the evening. We arrived to a growing crowd and Sharon’s works on paper mounted on canvas and panel.

I’m a fan of Sharon’s work which is a great way to come to an exhibition – hopeful and curious. She doesn’t disappoint with these new images. For everyone who loves paper and paper-happy materials this is a sensual delight. The images originate from drawing, a seemingly endless practice for this artist. The lines speculate, define, travel, become tender and joyful, dark and stubborn, mark territory and space, and map the artist’s experience. One feels access to a sort of secret code that allows us to feel less separate; both witness and participant in a legacy that is necessarily executed with paint, on paper and canvas, in studios, and most fortunately by Sharon.

 

Sister Spit

On June 24 Sister Spit read at the gallery. It was great to have them back. Michelle Tea orchestrated an evening of spoken word, short film, humor and anarchy that injected great life into the building and town. Plus it was a good excuse for Eileen Myles to come up and read. Eileen travels and performs with Sister Spit from time to time and is how they came to the gallery first some years back. They read – mostly from laptops held up with a hand, except for Eileen who read from paper. Gina Kamentsky showed some animations and some other artists participated.

It was so enlivening to have language flowing through the veins of our art-making/ art-presenting structure. We had a great audience too.

Tribe

Recently I spent a few days at Massachusetts College of Art & Design in the Printmaking studio as a guest reviewer for semester end presentations. I’ve done this before and really love it. First best is that I get to visit with Nona Hershey a MassArt professor and Schoolhouse Gallery artist. I love her work and always enjoy intersecting with her life and point of view. I was there as part of a group she’s assembled to review student work that includes their instructor Randy Garber and some other interesting artists named Tory Fair and Fred Liang. The printmaking studio is large and open like a gymnasium with studios hanging over either end. The students are great – a fantastic tribe of talent, eagerness, style, hesitation and defiance. And they’re producing great work.

We spent two days moving from one presentation to another, back and forth from world to different world. It’s an exercise in mental flexibility and accuracy, and as with so many valuable projects can only exist well free from pride and prejudice, and must be fertilized with good judgment. The best part is that success occurs when the work is seen and the student made visible. The most frightening part – when language runs ahead of meaning.
I loved Nona’s insistence on technical excellence and her strong request that the students turn and face the world they are deeply questioning. Its a tough stance to take but one I wish I’d been presented with when I look back at my own long life of resistance and rule-breaking. In the long run its so beneficial to be good at one or another skill or craft. It can really save you when other things fail or waver. Tory is a sculptor and brought a fantastic language to the forum seemingly based on her ability to see action, direction and execution in material outcomes. I tend to see things in terms of space so her voice was invigorating. Fred is a deeply thoughtful guy and from what I could gather a courageous artist; and he was able to suggest courage as an act of deep consideration and not some video-gamed, patriarchal act of competition and violence. Great.

It was also fun to have lunch with these folks in the cafeteria and hear a bit about the Boston scene. It seems as brittle as ever and I noted some of the same limitations discussed as when I left in the early 90′s. Still I loved being immersed in the environment with all its structures and formal definitions – and style. Boston has grown and flourished since then and I felt outspent and under dressed coming in from casual and naive Provincetown. I found myself relaxed and exhilarated to be in a crowd that knew so little about my interior life. Its so much the opposite in my small town where interiority is still currency and you can know many intimate details about someone without knowing their last name. Any opposite is fun as a change of pace, right?

The takeaway is the students and their work. These people are art students at a state school; something I came over the days spent there to view as a kind of a fantastic social action. They are a tribe, tight with the glue of common experience, sexuality, identity, substances, art making and whatever I couldn’t know from just my time there; the ups and downs of people’s life stories. Also fierce questioning and desire. Not hope: desire. I left with faith again that making and looking are radical acts that can incite change and make a difference; something that is continually pounded out of me in nastier aspects of running the gallery – or just listening to the news. I love feeling that trust in defiance again….just from looking at art.