Monday, May 08, 2006

Artist of the Week (05/08/06)

When I did a studio visit with New York artist Jennifer Coates several years ago, I left with the impression that here was a sincere and ambitious young artist who had decided on a particularly difficult course for her career. The works I saw at that time would force her to carve a path through some heavy hitting painting before she'd emerge on the other side with a clearly unique voice. Years later when I saw a new painting in a group exhibition at a Chelsea gallery, I realized I had greatly underestimated her. The work had evolved into the bold confident vision of someone cooking with gas, as they say. And it's only gotten better since.

Here's a description from the press release for her upcoming exhibition at
Feigen (which opens this Thursday):

Jennifer Coates' vividly colored, Symbolist-like paintings utilize the conventions of landscape as an anchor for hallucinatory visions that reference the mind and the body simultaneously. Expanses of sky or sea coalesce into pools of thought-like reflection; clouds of geometry warp into an ecstatic vortex; horizons fissure and swell like skin; and intricate vines tangle into knots of energized ganglia. Coates contrasts an atmospheric radiance with meticulous detail, iconic directness with allusive abstraction. Varied painterly approaches are positioned against each other to create a disjunctive but idealistic experience of place.
I've known Jennifer for a number of years, and she's one of my favorite pseudnonymous bloggers (no, she's not Edna, and so many people know her nom de plume, it's hardly worth describing her that way, but I'm not sure whether it's yet totally public knowledge, so...). I mention that she blogs merely to illustrate that she falls into that category of artists who are fully engaged in "the dialog" in a town where that can be somewhat masochistic for young painters.

Jennifer Coates, Creeper, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72" (image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary

The following is an example of where I feel Jennifer is blazing an exhilarating trail. This piece creates for me a complex mood that's at once both mysterious and hopeful:

Jennifer Coates, Softwall, 2006, Acrylic on canvas, 72" x 60"
(image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).

As noted in the gallery press release, Jennifer is using landscape as a metaphor for the mind and body, placing loaded symbols in ominous settings in ways that touch the darker recesses of one's subconscious. Here's an installation view of a selection of drawings from a 2004 group exhibition at
Monya Rowe's gallery that serves a bit as a legend to Jennifer's vocabulary:

Isolated trees or fence posts in barren landscapes stand in for the body. The punch comes from the inclusion of bright, happy colors or senusous shapes teasing out a ray of hope from the otherwise desolate locations. This emotional dichotomy echoes the painterly one, essentially spinning the viewer around in two different directions at once, leaving us wonderously unsettled yet hungry for more. Fortunately, if you're in New York, you can see more in person starting Thursday. Here are two somewhat older pieces for the road:

Jennifer Coates, Grotto, 2005, Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 30"
(image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).

Jennifer Coates, Stump, 2004, Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 72"
(image originally from now defunct Feigen Contemporary website).


Anonymous bambino said...

Love it, love it, love it.
Hopefully could afford one of them :)

5/08/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous hammy said...

beautiful work! Congratulations Jennifer!

5/08/2006 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous mark dixon said...

Very alluring paintings - definitely worth the 'artist of the week' plug.

5/08/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Corny said...

Beautiful post Ed, Softwall will kill you in real life.

5/08/2006 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger sloth said...

This is an absolute must-see show. Jennifer has a huge amount of heart -- and it shows in her work. Thanks, Edward!

5/08/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous PD said...

Thank you Edward, for pointing out Jen's amazingness for those who have not discovered it yet!

Softwall, I can't wait to meet you in the real.

5/08/2006 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous lupis said...

Edward, I'm loving your thoutfull over-view of Jennifer's work and painterly investigations. Thank you for highliting such a deserving artist. The opening is Thursday! yah!

5/08/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Uloo said...

Thanks for the skillful spotlighting, sir. I'm moved by the examples of Coates' work posted here.

5/08/2006 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

the combination of ethereal brushy parts with the biological details is great... unexpected. can't wait to see the show.

5/08/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger fairy butler said...

thanks ed, your comments about the dichotomy in jennifer's work are spot on - the ray of hope vs. desolation. I'd like to add that the touch of her paintings, the emotional tenor of the shifts in markmaking really speak loads for me. These are complex paintings - really really inspiring, beautiful, and hard won in a good way. These are the real deal. I can't wait to see them installed!

5/08/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

wow! how does she do it with only one good arm???

5/08/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Fiona Ross said...

I love this work and can't wait to see it all in person!

5/08/2006 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Heart As Arena said...

Excellent choice, Ed. I saw some of the new works in the studio a couple months ago and just about melted into the floor as soon as I walked in the door. (I swear, I didn't mean to rhyme just now.). Can't wait to see them in the gallery.

5/09/2006 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Constanse said...

At this risk of sounding redundant, wow!

I wish I could see them in person, but I'm stuck here in the 'burgh. Poor me.

5/09/2006 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous ds said...

I was going to say something tame and vaguely inept, like "Ms. Coates has been steadily plying her craft...Jennifer consistently works towards reconciling...I have been looking at her work for years.." you know, something platitudinous. Truth is, she has phase-shifted (or is it skyrocketed) away from minor squabbles in the abstraction/representation, figure/ground dialectics of artschooled painters into a major new voice in contemporary painting. The risks she takes seem subtle only because they are so carefully woven into the painted image, a whole new space is imagined here. Congratulations Jennifer, I am a huge fan.

5/09/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous ds said...

In the early-mid 90's sometime, Alex Katz exhibited one painting of his wife in stand of trees at Rubenstein/Diacono (sp?). Turn the corner, there it was, one painting, all the issues of painting/representation/markmaking there to ponder. It was a profound experience.
I am suggesting a celebrity smackdown (yes Coates is or will be a celebrity soon) end of the room this Katz painting, the other end "Creeper"
My money is on "Creeper"

5/09/2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Heart As Arena said...

Susan Constanse, there is no such thing as being "stuck in the 'burgh" as far as I'm concerned. Pittsburgh RULES! I don't live there though. Maybe if I did I would also be sighing. I don't know. The Warhol and the Mattress Factory would take a lot of the edge off.

5/09/2006 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous jen said...

Congratulations Jennifer. WOW-Work looks incredible online.
Stuck in Atlanta-hope to see the real thing sometime!

5/10/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger JD said...

Jennifer, I can't make your opening due to having to work late on Friday, but CONGRATS!!! The stuff looks fabulous, and I can't wait to see it in person.

5/10/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The opening is Thursday, tomorrow, JD...anonymous tip.

5/10/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger John Azoni said...

Those are fabulous. I especially like the works on paper. It's interesting to see how other artists display their works on paper. I'm a fan of the raw and unframed.

Wish I could've made it to the show, but I'm a Detroit artist, so that would be quite a hike.

5/14/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Thank you so very, very much, Ed. This is incredibly inspiring. Sometimes I just get exhausted, trolling the galleries in search of something this wonderful, and so I miss it when it finally comes along.

5/15/2006 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous julieandrews said...

really not to be offensive,but I actually feel nausea when I look at these-it seems a very toxic,dystopic landscape,with migraine rising-the colors are sweetly poisonous/hungover-they seem sincere,but could push more,not be so frontal

5/16/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merely O.K. Some good, some not so good. No content. Is she related to you guys? Why so gushy and sycophantic?

5/18/2006 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike R. said...

They are way beyond ok, I just saw the show today and felt physically disoriented. They are beautiful, eerie and thorough. The content is in the experience of looking - they seem to be about hope and menace - a fleeting, abstract kind of content.

5/18/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous samiam said...

anon,several people are good friends of hers-they really support each other.

5/19/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous s.Iam said...

who posted here,I mean-

5/20/2006 06:37:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home