Sunday, February 12, 2006

Artist of the Week 02/13/06

One of the first associations I make when I think of Minimalism is simple geometry---squares, cubes, grids, cylanders, etc., what Rosalind Krauss termed "an immediate, legible geometry" (Passages, New York, 1977 pg. 57). The "actual materials, actual colors and actual space" guidelines of the movement are immediately, to my mind, about wood, glass, brick and steel, signifying only the perfectly symmetrical objects they form. But that's a historical view of Minimalism, and perhaps not an absolute one. What's "immediate" or "legible" to one generation can be virtually remedial to the next as technology and other forces speed up our capacity for "seeing" more complex forms (there's a whole essay in here somewhere, but I'll save it for another time).

I had these thoughts come to mind while considering the work of New York-based artist Sharon Louden...well, while reading the
press release for her current solo exhibition at the Neuberger Museum:

Though her work is highly abstract and minimal, it has tremendous impact. “The question of how it is made arises time and time again, as does a vivid discussion of the many currents in the work—the psychological, sexual, and formal,” notes Dede Young, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Neuberger Museum of Art, and curator of the show. Louden’s lines project an attitude that can be enigmatic and often humorous, expressing a personal, internal dialogue that ranges in tone from serious and tense to surprising and entertaining. Her minimal expression has a maximal impact.
Yes, OK, so there's a difference between "Miminalist" and "minimal," but I read it as the "Minimalist" the first time and that got me to thinking about Sharon's work in relation to that of Stella or Judd or Flavin, etc., and whether they had missed something about how immediate and legible the shapes are in Sharon's work (at least to a generation that devours increasingly complicated shapes and textures in its architecture, music, and films). Sharon (disclaimer: who, with her husband, Jazz musician Vinson Valega, are good friends of the family) has a very organic vocabulary (consider these works:)...

Sharon Louden, The Lingering, 2004, Gel medium, acrylic, and watercolor on wood panel, 35" x 30" (image from
Numark Gallery's page).

Sharon Louden, Flaps, Watercolor and gel medium on clear mylar 25" x 25" (image from Metaphor Contemporary Art gallery website).

...but is known for sculptures and installations that adhere to Minimalism's "actual materials, actual colors and actual space guidelines" for the most part and defy simple symbolic readings (see image at top of installation at
Numark Gallery, who Sharon works with in Washington,DC...she was recently picked up by Oliver Kamm 5BE Gallery, here in New York as well).

OK, so perhaps I'm stretching a bit here, but that's because Sharon's work is difficult to's mostly experiential. As the
Art in America reivew of her 2004 exhibition at Anthony Grant gallery put it, she has a "propensity for the enigmatic gesture" but (you'll see why I keep coming back to this idea of a updated take on Minimalism) also noted that her works are "small triumphs of material being." Here's one of her earlier installations:

Sharon Louden, Fans, 2000-2001, Stockinette, aluminum wire, glue; dimensions variable. Shown here as a part of "Boomerang: Collectors Choice" at Exit Art, New York, NY; November 9, 2001-January 12, 2002. Image from
artist's website).

The Neuberger exhibition includes Sharon's recent animation works, representing a new body that she's been working toward for years. She's quoted in the museums's press release explaining, “For years, I’ve wanted to express my forms and gestures in animation, and I’ve thought about and observed line in motion. The medium [animation] is demanding. Once you make something move, it immediately develops a personality. There’s a linear progression in developing these forms, which become quite personal.” Here's a still from one:

Sharon Louden, Footprints, 2006, Animated film still (Image from Neuberger Museum of Art website).

Frustratingly, the blizzard worked to make it imposible for me to get to Sharon's opening at the Neuberger this past weekend, but now that it's already melting, I encourage you all to make it up there and see this survey of this gorgeous, accomplished work.


Anonymous bambino said...

like it, like it :)

2/13/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...

Gotta provide the dissenting opinion here. I saw the Numark show that the top image is from. While I somewhat enjoy her paintings (some of them at least), the big installation fell very flat for me. A buddy and I walked around it, tried to take it in, and then said to ourselves, so what? The installation recalls the human figure way too much for me to think anything about Minimalism.

I'd like to see her keep cranking out the paintings but in the meantime I think she needs to take a dose of Reductivism with her Minimalism in terms of her installations.

Just my 2 cents...

2/13/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Now that Minimalism is routinely confused with 'good taste' it is time to upset the apple cart. This looks like a step in that direction.

2/13/2006 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger said...

I agree with Edward that Sharon's work speaks volumes with simple forms and gestures. Sharon is also notable in that throughout her career she has continued to work with these minimalist forms in an ever growing array of media.

Kudos for featuring her on your blog!


2/13/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous onesock said...

I am speechless. To get a full understanding everyone should check out her website. She has gorgeous pics of installations using reflective materials. Her "Fairies" looks fantasic. I wish I could see in person. This is inspiring, thanks for the tip on this artist Ed.

J. T. , check that website out my friend.

2/13/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous bamibino said...

I agree, check the artists website. Drawings, paintings A M A Z I N G....
Congrats Sharon....

2/13/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger M. Cameron Boyd said...

Like JT, I must also post a dis-senting P.O.V. - one of the hallmarks of Judd's /Morris' /Flavin's minimal art was their on-going fascination with "gestalt theory." I'm no psychologist but the art theory side of this had to do with grasping these "primary structures" in their totality, that is, "knowing" that it was a cube, say with Bob Morris, or 120 bricks with Carl Andre. Once the "gestalt," or "essence" of the form was grasped, then the viewer was free to move on to other considerations of perception, which was what these minimal artists were really interested in, such as the "experience" of viewing, the temporal aspect of occupying that space with that piece. With Louden's work there is too much "mystery" of what these shapes are, where they end, for it to be grasped "whole." I would even venture that we can't get at the "perception" of these installations ever, as we are continually reassessing the formlessness of these shapes.

Perhaps her drawings give one a better entrance into her work but "minimal?" No, they're just spare. And I have to disagree with Tim: "good taste" does not require us to "upset the cart" (there's that image again, Kriston) and dissemble one of the late-20th Century's important art movements. Can't we just acknowledge that there are previous "forms" or "theories" of art that have enough validity and power (at least among artists if not always with curators, collectors, etc.) to remain substantive without being "hipped up," "covered" or recast?

2/13/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...


Still not hitting me in the right spot. It's slightly too much for me to appreciate any Minimalism comparisons and not enough to be impressed with its presence. It occupies a gray area for me that leaves me flat. Have you seen any of her work in person? I've got you trumped there!

And I agree with Mark... upsetting the apple cart is what's WRONG with a lot of contemporary art today, in my opinion.

2/13/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous onesock said...

Mark Boyd,
Yes these ARE mysterious , there is a surprise element to these forms. I dont need Judd and the rest to enter and appreciate her work. In fact, I think more of magic-- JM Barrie, Tolkien, Lewis Carroll. What I am saying is I imagine that I would "feel" these works if I were to see them in person. I wish my art had half her lyrical sensibilities.

2/13/2006 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

uh,'ve pushed one of my buttons, Mr. Boyd ;-)

First, let me concede that I would have used "spare" to discuss Sharon's work rather than "minimal," (because of the weight that now carries in artspeak), and that I tried to acknowledge that my opening association was a bit a of a stretch (I just wanted to throw it out there)...HOWEVER...

Can't we just acknowledge that there are previous "forms" or "theories" of art that have enough validity and power (at least among artists if not always with curators, collectors, etc.) to remain substantive without being "hipped up," "covered" or recast?

That presumes that the original Minimalists had completed their exploration; that they said it all; that the "one thing"-ness of their work was somehow conclusive.

Using Sharon's work with synthetic materials as an example, who's to say there's anything more "essential" (materiality speaking) about a brick (which is most clearly manufactured) or steel (again, manufactured) than there is about a monofilament line? It's a new age, the building blocks of our institutions are not just brick and glass and steel...they are also cables and networks and light now.

I tend to think the lack of a dominant movement at the moment (i.e, this age of pluralism) has opened the doors to revisiting any and all previous movements, to try and poke holes through those theories and see what was really an advance and what was merely the best they could see at the time because of limitations in understanding or technology.

2/13/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minimal might be a too inaccurate word to describe these works. They look incredible. Beautiful. Full of the human form: Direct us to it's scale - the relay to this and from that. Perhaps they uncover something! But what they are do not provide us with the 'enough incompetence' (the height of not knowing 'how to read') that bump us off from the start, 'stall' from the round and the read of form as we know, as we are educated. Trouble with minimalisms now is that while we have been there to there, there is still this strong tendency to over use its term as a stamp for the 'mystery' and the 'clarity' that we so often yearn yet overspeak.
Perhaps could we call Sharon's something else not that they need it to let them shine.

2/13/2006 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous unosocko said...

JT, you got me on that one. Yes I have not seen them in person. SO, are you saying that these are too much to be minimal(therfore extreme in the reductivist sense) but not enough to overwhelm you sensually (the other extreme)? Is that your critique?

I trust your sensibilities in these matters, sir, but I still think I would be impressed if I were to see them in person

2/13/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...


That is what I am saying. The analogy I think of is this. You can buy a road bike and be fast and efficient. You can buy a mountain bike and tackle the toughest terrain. Or, you can do like lots of people and buy a hybrid bike... 6 of one and half a dozen of the other. Ultimately it does nothing extremely well. That's not to say a hybrid bike can't be extremely high quality, but it might not be a lot of fun to ride on a daily basis.

Maybe it's the fact that the monofilament installations remind me too much of Cousin It. For me, the work has nothing to do with monofilament. It's a material trying to go somewhere else but getting stuck in mud. Same with the painting. Her palette is in the gray area. Not enough contrast nor too little contrast.

Mr. Sock... on the pendulum that is simplicity in art I see your work on the more simple (in a good way, of course) side. Shall I expect to see you move into the gray area?

2/13/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous sock, the one and only said...

Well, I try to keep my materials soft-spoken, let them do what they wanna do. But I hear what you are saying. I hope you feel free to call me out is you perceive any of this in my work.
As far as the monofilament work, I agree I think it seems weaker than what I perceive her other work to be. I would like to see/experience an entire room filled with these strands-no clumps or spaces. I wanna walk into that mass, get tangled up in it , be part of it oh how exciting that would be!

2/13/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Anonymous one tired sock said...

Okay, takin' an ol againlooky at the work on Louden's site and reading her statement I wanna say a few thangs..
Numberwon.. she still kicks art bootay!

Numbertoo...she is referencing the human form in these works (so JT thinking of Cousin It isnt far off)so for her to execute that idea I had would not conform to her concept ( or maybe it would in a different way, maybe it would be more traditonally "minimalist"?)

and thricely.. I think it is interesting to think of JTs crit through the lens of Edward's idea that this artist is exploring minimalist procedures by way of contemporary media consumption abilities (what the heck am I wordin' now?)

Anyway, perhaps Ed is onto something that explains JTs reaction.
Some peeps flesh this out cuz I drank sum sleeeepy time tea and its a-kickin in!@ Hoo haa! I am teaching double time this week.

2/13/2006 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'sock' been there said that, look above: juz need to work on ya poetry reading! ... guessing pretty loud ... these human qualities, the way they are rendered, and formed, the know-abouts, the territory style, is what would have lead Edward to post the artist as artist of the week.
if you want to look at harder core minimal or reduction I suggest minusspace is a place to look. They have good artists, and a longer list of non-affiliated of that cooler elk JT talks of.

2/13/2006 11:10:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...

Minusspace rocks!! Love it!

And I'm so glad they found a physical space to show in!

2/14/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger M. Cameron Boyd said...

Mr. Winkleman: Thou doth "presume" too much!

In stating that the original Minimalists (Judd /Andre /Lewitt /Flavin /early Stella /early Morris /Truitt) erected an art form that had substance, I did not suggest that they have "completed their exploration." (The original Minimalists whose tasks are now sadly "complete" are Judd, Flavin and Truitt.) The only presumption you can take from my earlier post is that those original Minimalists did provide a "conclusive" construct within which their concepts could be continued by others. Isn't this what is supposed to happen in art? Previous art forms and theories that pave exploratory pathways for succeeding generations should and ought to be continued, but with an authenticity to the originary principles, i.e. gestalt theory, phenomenology, even Fried's ironic critique of "theatricality." I'm not sure that this is in evidence in Louden's work. In regards to Louden's chosen materials conferring the label of "minimal art" on her work, I suggest that using industrial materials does not make one's work minimal - it's how one uses those materials that does.

I do agree with your assessment of the current state of "pluralism," which has certainly "opened the doors to revisiting any and all previous movements," as we can currently see a crop of recent art school grads who pillage, borrow and "recast" the earlier art concepts, yet don't add anything to the discourse or carry the original concepts forward. This is exactly why today's artists that are enamored of earlier styles like Minimalism or conceptual art must immerse themselves in the relevant art theories so that they can understand the ideas more fully, to make these earlier, historical art forms "live and breathe" again, rather than creating superficial "citations," or "style without substance."

2/14/2006 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"This is exactly why today's artists that are enamored of earlier styles like Minimalism or conceptual art must immerse themselves in the relevant art theories so that they can understand the ideas more fully, to make these earlier, historical art forms "live and breathe" again, rather than creating superficial "citations," or "style without substance.""

Urp, say again? I was drinking my beer and watching the TV, missed what you said I should be doing . . .

I filed my diploma a long time ago. Most of any field is crap, no point in characterizing art by the lazy and uninspired work that fills most venues, it's just noise. Find the good stuff and bring the news. How it compares to the good work of the past is interesting, but it doesn't constitute a point system for predicting success. As if such a thing was desirable.

2/14/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Boyd.

With respect!
I agree that we do reside in the formulative approach. I don't believe studying a past history deeply enables an artist, any person, to make their own history. I wholly believe that we live in a time , intersection, side-show, alleys and highways. An artist able to detour into any or many of these sections and subsections, guided by an understanding of where they are at now can help them, us, understand something about travel.

This comment is good for the above as well.

2/15/2006 08:33:00 AM  

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