Monday, December 19, 2005

Artist of the Week (12/19/05)

This week's artist falls in that category of probably-not-underappreciated-any-longer, but I'll write about his work all the same as a little Christmas present to myself.

I first met James Siena when his career was just starting to really take off. Until then he had been supporting himself as a frame maker. I recalled the kind but knowing smile on his face when I asked if he was able to frame a piece I had just purchased by a mutual friend. He was very happy to report that he didn't need to do that any more...he was able to live off his painting sales.

Represented by
Pace Wildenstein, James has an exhibition up at their 25th Street space until January 18, 2006. I cannot recommend this show strongly enough. It's chock full of mesmerizingly beautiful works that make my mouth water, like this one:

James Siena, Boustrophedonic Recursive Combs, 2004, Gouache on paper, 8-1/2" x 11" (image from
Pace Wildenstein website)

This passage from his current exhibition's press release is about as concise an entry point into James' work as I've ever read:

The accompanying exhibition catalogue includes an essay by John Yau entitled The Reality of Abstraction. The title comes from the following 2001 quote by the artist: "I don't make marks. I make moves. The reality of abstraction is my primary point of engagement. When I make a painting, I respond to a set of parameters, like a visual algorithm." Yau acknowledges that a visual affinity with computer software exists in Siena's work but that the origins are "far more diverse, and ultimately, whatever the sources, they all pass through Abstract Expressionism." Yau considers how Siena has "replaced Pollock's expansive, outward movement with a rigorous inward movement, as well as transformed Stella's opticality and hard edged lines and shapes into sensually vivid oscillations arising from a matter-of-fact hand drawn line."
Here's one of James' signature enamel on aluminum paintings from the exhibition:

James Siena, One, one..., 2005, Enamel on aluminum, 23" x 29"(image from
Pace Wildenstein website)

Fans of James' work often fall into one of two camps: those who like the geometric pieces, like the rigorously so one above and the more wavy geometric one below:

James Siena, Multi-Colored Nesting Unknots, 2004, Gouache on paper, 11" x 8-1/2" (image from
Pace Wildenstein website)

And those who prefer his more organic pieces, like this one:

James Siena, Non-Slice, 2005, Enamel on aluminum, 19" x 15" (image from
Pace Wildenstein website)

I tend to like the mutants, that fall somewhere in between, like this one:

James Siena, Coffered Divided Sagging Grid (with glitch), 2005, Enamel on aluminum,
29-1/16" x 22-11/16" (image from
Pace Wildenstein website)

In spite of his success (prices at the Pace exhibition are edging up on 6 digits), James remains one of the NY art world's most charming personalities. He's incredibly smart and warm, and his lovely wife, Katia Santibañez (represented by
Michael Steinberg Gallery in Chelsea) is another of my favorite NY painters, although I have detected a mutual influence on each other's work since they found each other (perhaps just my projection, but either way certainly to the advantage of each).

With the holidays, this will be the final Artist of the Week for 2005...Season's Greetings! The series will continue in the New Year.


Anonymous hang said...

the work is very kusama, no?

12/21/2005 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmm, I had never made that connection, but now that you mention it.

I do get the idea from this interview with James in that there's an element of obsessiveness in his process that you don't see when talking with him in person...

I'll have to ask if he sees an affinity there.

12/21/2005 04:20:00 PM  

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