Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work

Despite last week's thread in which we discussed the seeming need to "go more than two or even three directions at once, to break through into a fourth dimension to capture a deeper sense of what's happening and how it is making us feel" and what that might mean for painters, I have to confess that I lo-o-o-o-o-o-ove paintings. I love looking at paintings, talking about paintings, even installing paintings in the gallery. They're wonderful, and I'd hate to imagine our world without them. (OK, so I don't love bad paintings, but...)

This romance with a particular medium pre-dates our opening the gallery and is perhaps more understandable when one knows that a hundred years ago or so I used to dabble in painting on weekends, and a few classes here and there, and nothing I've ever done, not even writing (which I also love), has ever made the hours evaporate as quickly and as pleasantly as solving some problem on canvas. There's magic in the process and sometimes (more often for some than others) magic in the results. What's not to love?

This love affair with painting is not uncommon, I know. In fact, a good friend of our gallery and a wonderful artist in multiple media, Joe Fig, has just published a book about painting and painters and what it means to spend so many hours in one's studio solving problems on canvas. Inside the Painter's Studio (you can buy it on Amazon) includes photographs and interviews from 24 contemporary painters' studios, including those of Gregory Amenoff, Ross Bleckner, Chuck Close, Will Cotton, Inka Essenhigh, Eric Fischl, Barnaby Furnas, April Gornik, Jane Hammond, Mary Heilmann, Bill Jensen, Ryan McGinness, Julie Mehretu, Malcolm Morley, Steve Mumford, Philip Pearlstein, Matthew Ritchie, Alexis Rockman, Dana Schutz, James Siena, Amy Sillman, Joan Snyder, Billy Sullivan, and Fred Tomaselli. It's an absolute treasury of insights and and behind-the-scene snapshots of some of America's most talked-about painters. Here are just a few of the quotes from the book:
“Life is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do in my life is to bring something new, something beautiful and something filled with light into the world. I try to think of that every day so that I can remember why I am coming to my studio.”
– Ross Bleckner

“Yeah, I just have this one palette knife. I like how it feels. I get frustrated because I lose it a lot in the studio and I can’t do anything without it. If I’ve lost it, I can’t paint because I need to mix up colors. I hate that!... Then I hate the palette knife! [laughs] But then I find it and I love it again. [laughs]”
– Dana Schutz

“I like Chinatown, it’s had an influence on my life! The colors of the signage really affected me early on. This goes back to the old Lower East side too where you’d see reds, yellows, blues just garish, raucous colors really comp...ressed together. The whole area is compressed and my studio is small so it’s compressed too. The compression in my work comes partially out of that.”
– James Siena

“My secret for success? Well it’s not a secret that I have never hung out too much and I’ve just worked very, very hard for thirty-five years. It’s just a lot of hard work. That’s my secret—it’s a big secret [laughs]. A lot of hard work and also being with my family which for me has always been a priority.”
– Joan Snyder
I'll go out on a limb here and say that if you love the dialog around contemporary painting, you're very likely to love this book as much as I do. Truly, I've spent hours with this book (the photos are as eye-opening as the interviews) and can pick it up and re-read it over and over.

Joe has an opening and book launch party this Thursday, October 15, at Hendershot Gallery. I wouldn't miss it!

Labels: artist studios


Anonymous Cedric C said...

Do you still paint, Edward?
Or if not, why did you stop? Presuming the answer is because you thought you sucked, what convinced you that you could not simply improve over time?

I'm bringing this because I know
a few curators or dealers who are ex-artists. And many have completely stopped making art.

I find courageous people who sacrifice an activity they love because they think they are bad at it, but I'm not entirely sure it's the right thing to do.

The opposite philosophy is that
there is too much bad art, that making art on the side (knowing you've never been able to attract a single admirer) is a total waste of time. But I tend to think that if it takes someone 90 years to make a single great artwork, it was worth it.

Anyways, just ramblin' (more like disgressing)

Cedric C

10/13/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

That humanity actually has the capacity to love art is really amazing.

That we express or "consumate" that love (or however you want to circumscribe it) by collecting, or being a gallerist, or an artist, or a patron, or as a viewer is just as fascinating. That we may make a decision to love art in one manner or another does seems heart breaking. But I don't think such a choice reflects a greater or lesser way of engaging with art. (That would be like saying a gourmet meal could only be appreciated by the chef)

...looks like I now have another book for my reading list!

10/13/2009 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I stopped painting because I suck and because I don't have enough time at the moment. Despite sucking, I look forward to taking it up again when I retire. :-)

10/13/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Marion said...

You probably don't suck at it as much as you recognize the quality of what certain artists around you are doing, which you appreciate because you don't suck as a painter...

10/13/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

"Painting has yet to be discovered." Reported to be Picasso's last words.

10/13/2009 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger M.A.H. said...

Just got my copy of the book the other day and am poring over it.

10/13/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger pam farrell said...

Loved this book! I too spent hours immersing myself in the pics and interviews. I love that these artists talked about technique, process, painting knives, brushes, and brand loyalty to oil paint!!!

Being afforded the inside look into these amazing painters' studios went a long way toward satisfying my voyeur jones...at least for a while.

Thanks for this post...

10/13/2009 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger gnute said...

Was just pondering about all the things I don't like about some art, & you've reminded me to think about the stuff I do like & the pure joy involved in pushing paint around a surface! Will definitely look out for this book.

I overheard someone the other day talking about 'wet theory' or something - the fact that people are drawn to painting because it's a wet medium. Anyone know anything about this? It sounded vaguely interesting at the time!

10/13/2009 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger Marion said...

Wet theory - that's hilarious - some of us live for it! I'd be hard pressed to think of something better than the physical properties of paint - some translucent, some opaque, some resistant, some fluid - I suck as a painter too, but practice wet theory on the sly.

10/14/2009 09:12:00 AM  

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