Art Review: Marilyn Minter at the Brooklyn Museum

Art Review Marilyn Minter "Pretty/Dirty" at the Brooklyn Museum
by Stephanie Del Carpio MFA 2017


Marilyn Minter’s first retrospective exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is so much more than skin deep bling. It reflects the obsession with western ideals of beauty, the culture of fashion, notions of femininity and the female body. Beginning with intimate and haunting photographs of her mother, once a southern belle, Minter eerily captures a maniacal fixation with one’s reflection and the inevitable ravage of time on the human body. The woman in the photos is smeared in layers of makeup and with a vacant stare she reminds us that we may all be sharing those feelings someday, as we gaze at our aging selves in the mirror.
Coral Ridge Towers (Mom in Negligee), 1969
Coral Ridge Towers (Mom making up), 1969

The large scale paintings Little Girls and Big Girls focus on the female body and the male gaze. Big Girls depicts the infamous 1957 photo of Italian actress Sophia Loren and American actress Jayne Mansfield, in which Mansfield’s bosom is precariously encased by a plunging neckline. Both actresses were considered the epitome of beauty in the 1950s and 1960s. They were women deemed worthy of  worship, envy, and desire. In Little Girls, Minter is showing us the symbolic version of these ladies as children, in all their youth and innocence; unaware of their future objectification.  
Big Girls, enamel on canvas, 1986

In later works, such as Clip and Dirty Heel, Minter confronts her audience with massive depictions of beautification tools, magnified for greater effect. Throughout, there are also insights into the artist’s creative process. Bisecting the galleries, there is a narrow hallway with a large vitrine, showing old sketches, preliminary studies, and collaged photo references for future works. 
Vitrines with sketches and studies

In the age before Photoshop, these give us a glimpse into the planning and production of her large scale close-ups. Hanging nearby is a collection of photos commissioned by Playboy magazine that depict graphic close ups of pubic hair being groomed. These images are candid shots of a woman’s private rituals exposed for all to see. Minter aims to strip the veil of secrecy to the process of self-grooming - the raw reality of the things we usually conceal. 
Plush, inkjet prints

The monumental Blue Poles, reveals unruly and unplucked brow hairs, loud freckles and a glaring blemish, alongside a pair of eyelids with uneven metallic and glamorous eyeshadow.
Blue Poles, enamel on metal

The sky-high heel comes alive in the video Smash. As you walk into the final viewing room, you are greeted by a closeup video of a pair of feet uncomfortably squeezed into bejeweled open-toe high heel shoes. They are metallic silver and stomp into metallic liquid. They eventually shatter a pane of glass, symbolically the same glass that separates the audience from the action. As they turn, a loose string of crystal embellishments swing around and smack against the foot. Overgrown painted toenails decorate toes that appear to be in utmost pain. The expression “suffer for fashion” comes to mind, and Minter is throwing it back at all our faces. We in the audience are guilty as charged - for not only feeding into the myth, but glorifying and luxuriating in it.
Smash, video still



Art Review: Kerry James Marshall at the Met Breuer


Art Review: Kerry James Marshall "Mastry" at the Met Breuer
by Anastasiya Tarasenko MFA 2017 


 Past Times, 1997

It takes a special artist to elevate craft store glitter to a high art and Kerry James Marshall does just that. With not a sparkle out of place, Marshall is a master at using this embellishment as a framing device for his paintings, bridging the gap between the fantasy world of the icon and the reality of his subjects. Gulf Stream (2003) depicts a black family leisurely sailing all framed with a glittery rope giving the whole painting a decidedly post-card feel. The inspiration behind it, Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream (1899), shows a bleak original scene, a black man in a small boat surrounded by sharks instead of decoration.

Gulf Stream, 2003, acrylic and glitter on canvas

            Marshall is a master of decisiveness. His strong themes communicate with the physical choices he makes with his palette, painting language, and symbolism. A black person is literally black, and unapologetically so. Depictions of a painters palette are often larger than he/she is and are an abstract painting in and of themselves. A narrative of life in housing projects is scattered with text, verse, and the lyrics and notes of whatever tune they are listening to at the picnic. Marshall disregards the esoteric language of most contemporary art and embraces a clarity of narrative, metaphor, and symbolism rarely seen outside the world of illustration.
 
Untitled (Painter), 2008


The Kerry James Marshall retrospective spans 2 floors of the Met Breuer and is on through January 29th 2017.  

Art Review: Sophia Narrett at Freight + Volume

Art Review: Sophia Narrett, Early in the Game
by Kate Manire MFA 2017 

Some art demands to be observed closely--preferably no more than six inches away. I was thinking about this when I walked into Sophia Narrett’s solo show of wall embroideries at Freight + Volume because, frankly, I was trying to calm my anxiety over the fact that people were getting a little too close. But after seeing her show, titled Early in the Game, I absolutely understood why. There was quite a lot to take in, and although I spent a considerable amount of time there, probably a lot that I missed, too.

Early in the Game is a three-part installation, and each phase begins with a miniature, simplistic image that Narrett calls a “card.” Each card introduces a theme or emotion, which the artists builds on in the following larger, more organically shaped vignette-style compositions. In Card One: Cry, we see a woman at her doorstep, with her head slumped over and a slew of shopping bags. It’s a lonely image, and so are the larger formats that follow: a woman curled up in bed under a framed picture of Entourage’s Ari Gold and next to Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance; a box of tissues; a naked man with an erection looking in on a couple in a bank. Although varied and complex, the images in this chapter reflect themes of desolation, commercialism, and eroticism.

Card One: Cry, 2016, embroidery thread and fabric, 3.5 x 2.5 in

Card Two: Wander, sets the tone for the rest of the show which depicts an array of human interactions, often sexual or having to do with conventions of romance. The images are framed with organic branches, fruits and flowers from which hang woven bandages, IV needles and jewelry. Stuck, one of the largest pieces, is a modern Garden of Earthly Delights, although “delight” might be a strong word. In it, nude women, zombie-like and strapped to IVs, are seen entering and leaving a maze while an orgy occurs in what could either be a waterless swimming pool or an empty tomb. When viewed along with the rest of the motifs and scenes in the piece—the oranges, the suburban home with the young, wholesome couple outside— it’s very difficult to say whether Narrett wants us to project our own interpretations or to simply accept her narratives as autobiographical.


Stuck, 2016, embroidery thread and fabric, 62 x 38 in

Unfortunately for us, Card Three: Play and the final pieces of the show produce more questions than answers. In fact, each phase made me increasingly confused. Just as I began to think I was getting somewhere, the rug was pulled out from under me. There were parts that were safe for both relating to the artist and staying separate from her, but no real direction on which one to do and when. This made me especially thankful for the Cards, which allowed me to breathe and focus on a single emotion or experience before jumping back into the melee.



When Your Heart is Open, 2015, embroidery thread and fabric, 36 x 22 in

Narrative content aside, the embroideries are truly a joy to look at. She uses the medium of thread in ways that refer to painting as well as ways that escape the conventions that trap traditional paintings. Of course there is conceptual weight to using embroidery, historically relegated to a “womens’ craft,” and while the pieces certainly engage with notions of gender and domesticity, they also reveal a simple mastery and joy in the act of embroidering. Narrett’s optical color mixing alludes to impressionist paintings, and she embraces the hanging loose-ends of the thread and its potential for intricacy to shape her pieces.

Stuck (detail), 2016

It is always exciting and increasingly rare to find art in which you can clearly see the hand of the creator. It’s doubly so to be able to sense the creator’s tactile engagement in the piece just by looking at it. As artists, we are especially sensitive to this in everything we encounter, which perhaps is why I responded to Early in the Game so strongly. Narrett’s obvious care for and engagement with her chosen material is what will bring me back to her next show. 

Art Review: Coming to Power at Maccarone Gallery

Art Review: "Coming to Power" at Maccarone Gallery
by Anastasiya Tarasenko MFA 2017



Alice Neel Nadya Nude, 1933

Just as our own Take Home a Nude auction is right around the corner, “Coming to Power” offers a scintillating look inside the world of the artist, for whom the forbidden fruit hangs low and always within reach. While sexual imagery used to be the exclusive domain of male artists for male consumers “Coming to Power: 25 Years of Women Making Sexually Explicit Art” turns our attention to the female gaze, as it recreates the landmark 1993 exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery.


Nancy Fried Her Home, 1980

The walls are painted black, charging the space appropriately with a velvety, dark atmosphere. Scrapbooking, collage, fabric, metal, lacquer finish, feathers, and ribbons, all craft elements, traditional “women’s arts”, are subverted, demented, criticized, and celebrated in equal measure as beautifully exemplified in Nancy Fried’s small works on a bread-like surface made with flour and salt. Each one is sculpted and painted, depicting scenes of intercourse, masturbation, or simply, naked domestic life.


Monica Majoli, Untitle (Bathtub Orgy), 1990

With the exception of phallic symbolism in many of the works, the majority directed the female gaze onto female bodies. One of the few paintings featuring an all male cast was Monica Majoli’s “Untitled (Bathtub Orgy)”, 1990. This small, meticulously painted image features a group of men in a dark room surrounding and urinating on a man, both in agony and ecstasy, draped over in the tub in a pose similar to that of Jesus in Michelangelo's “Pieta”.



Installation view of video display

In the room next to the main exhibition space, the visitor is invited to sit (or lay) on a large, furry throw, put on headphones, and watch an instructional video entitled “Sluts and Goddesses” by Annie Sprinkle and Maria Beatty, a 75 minute how-to guide for sexual enlightenment. This was one of the more interesting choices of video on display as it was not a conceptual art piece in its inception but the context of a gallery space lends it a more refined perspective.

The exhibition is open until October 16th at the Maccarone Gallery and features works by Alice Neel, Yoko Ono, Nicole Eisenman and many other distinguished women in the art world. 

Art Review: Jonathan Gardner at Casey Kaplan Gallery

Art Review: Jonathan Gardner at Casey Kaplan Gallery
by Stephanie del Carpio MFA 2017

"Bather with a Yellow Towel" 
As artists, and more so as painters, we have a complex relationship to the past. Jonathan Gardner embraces it and reinvents it into a wonderful pastiche of figures and patterns. His reverence for art history feels genuine and the historical references he utilizes never feel forced – but are rather a quirky yet deliberate celebration of those that came before us. 
"Connection"

 Looking at his paintings is a joy to art history buffs and amateurs alike. You can almost play a game of “name the modern master” with every painting. On the roster one quickly comes across Matisse, Cezanne, Balthus, Picasso, Dali, and if you look carefully, you may even spot a dog resembling that of a Roman era mosaic in the painting entitled, “Connection.” The figure in “Bather with a Yellow Towel,” recalls an ancient Egyptian pose in the position of her feet and body posture. A favorite moment comes in the form of a cheeky nod to the Rococo, as the “Reclining Nude” looks back toward her purposeful exposed posterior while expertly displaying her top half.
"Reclining Nude"
With a play on medieval perspective, he develops intricately composed interiors only to splice them into mismatched mirror images, to the benefit of the stylized figures that inhabit them. The relationship between model and artist is also at play here. In “The Model,” Gardner depicts a would be painter maneuvering their canvas as the model looks on. There is also a repeated use of the “painting within a painting,” which works to negate any potentially perspectival spatial logic. Gardner's aim is not an illusionistic kind of painting – after all, he is a student of the Chicago Imagists and their penchant for fantastical caricature comes across loud and clear. Not unlike Roger Brown and Barbara Rossi, Gardner uses patterns to compose his interiors, creating a color and linear harmony while developing impossible reflections. His compositions are methodical. In each square inch he presents a give and pull of color blocks and shapes that fill up the canvases like puzzle pieces - what starts on one corner continues on the opposite side and what creeps in below reemerges on top.
"The Model"


Being a figurative painter in this day and age is a tricky business – how much of a nod to the past is too much? In his first New York solo exhibition, Jonathan Gardner is successful in playfully demonstrating his love of art history, in a very serious way. The monumental size of his canvases speak of the weight and responsibility that is being the next link in the long chain of representational and figurative oil painters. 
"Dark Mirror"
"In the Mirror"

"Salmon Sofa"



Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Giverny

Our third essay from Giverny, France comes from Kristina Reddy MFA 2017. 

Every morning I would wake up with the sun – happy, and excited to start the day. And who wouldn’t be, if they awoke in a beautiful home, situated amidst gardens and chirping birds! It is impossible not to see the French countryside as somehow “romantic.”

I think the most wonderful quality that is present here, in Giverny, is tranquility. Away from all the noise and business that we are so used to in New York City, Giverny welcomes us with peace. There is space to think, to wonder, and to just simply BE. It is precisely this nurturing environment that energizes me and gets me excited about going to the studio in the mornings.

I arrived to the residency with the intention to push through all my comfort zones, and to allow myself to make mistakes. Experimenting with acrylics and acrylic mediums, often left me feeling out of control, but also helped me to discover interesting things along the way. I became more confident with my tools, and the way I applied paint. I tried various surfaces—rice paper, duralar, and fabric board—adjusting the how and what kind of material combination worked best for what purpose. Of course, I also painted in oils, working fast so as to leave enough time for the paintings to dry. This process gave me freedom and allowed me to learn about my temperament, resulting in active brushwork and paintings that looked more alive.

Some of the work produced at the residency.

In regards to subject matter, my goal was to paint a series of snapshots of nature, both the terrain and the aquatic environments, and to capture something of life that did not need literal description. I focused on segments of flowers, streams, etc., and tried to embody the essence of the whole in the snapshot of its part. Everything in nature - every flower, every person – exists only as a part of a whole. There is an entire universe living inside each organism. My work was fed by the desire to understand and reconcile the natural and the artificial components of our existence, through the practice of abstracting the organic forms.

Inspired by the Patterns in the Stream

Inspiration in Giverny was inexhaustible—it was everywhere! One day, on a walk up the hill, behind the village, we discovered a group of cows. The animals were so beautiful and impressive that I just had to paint them! We were also lucky to have found some ostriches, kangaroos, and llamas…all, of course, were “natives” to the region!! Once, Matt even found a petite relative of a tarantula, visiting our home…but that is another story.
Cows, Ostriches, and Llamas

With permission from the Claude Monet Foundation, we were able to access the Monet’s gardens and paint directly from the vibrant and beautiful flowers growing there. I took many photographs of the creek and the water lilies—the running water and the plants that were swaying underneath. These became my primary inspiration.

Painting at the Flower Garden

The Lily Pond

Three weeks does not seem like a long time, but it has brought my classmates and I closer together. We worked hard, inspired and encouraged each other, cooked and ate together, and shared many beautiful moments along the way. And while our time in France, is almost over, I look forward to continuing our journey back in New York.

To everyone we have met during our stay at Giverny: Thank you! You have truly enriched our experience, and we will cherish it forever. Special thanks to Céliane Ainaron, Jan Huntley, Miranda Fontaine, and Véronique Bossard, for taking such a good care of us!

Merci & À bientôt!!
Studio Visit with some of the attendees featured here - Matt, Kurt, Jorge, Kristina, Jan, Dante, Miranda, Lewis, Naudline, François, Ines, Dominic, Charlotte, and Aleksandra


New York Academy of Art students on the road!


Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Giverny

Our second essay from Giverny comes from Matthew Durante MFA 2017. 

Giverny is an inspiration. I paint both the landscape and the figure, but here the landscape is such that to paint anything else would seem to miss the point. It is enchanting.

I want to thank the New York Academy of Art and the Terra Foundation for an unparalleled experience. Rolling hills of thick greens of every shade, gardens and lilies of famous lineage, trees and hedges and flowers and all of them luminous in the sunshine, friendly bees and bugs and daddy-long-legs in their nooks, sucre crepes right down the road, Paris just a bit further, gracious and accommodating hosts who give us free passes to museums and gardens and bikes and food and a wonderful old house to live in, a dressing room to properly attire myself for facing the landscape, a Sorolla exhibition to walk to for quick inspiration, hearty meals sometimes with a cheese course, pastries and more pastries, a car for groceries and picnics and twirling round about the roundabouts, pleasant and supportive companions who are not unhinged, strange ear kissing rituals, classical chamber musicians who are also residents playing all around us, and lots of wine. This is Giverny.


“Ah Giverny…”

I may be burbling but this has been my first time in France, and indeed in Europe. I visited Paris before Giverny, and marched through the major museums in a jet-lagged stupor determined to see it all while staying upright.  Combine that with a few days in London and it would seem I have seen almost every major work of pre-20th century art from my art history classes! Amazing. London seemed to have a dynamic energy similar to New York City, while Paris was leisurely and lovely, perfect for wandering the boulevards.

It was inspiring to see so much great painting in Paris and London, but overwhelming to see it all in so quick a time. So to calm my brain, I sketched the sculpture that is everywhere in Paris. The quality of European figurative sculpture in the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay is amazing.  Combine marble, particularly when it glistens, and the human form, particularly when it is carved with skill and subtlety, and I must draw it.
Sketching sculpture at the Louvre!

After Paris, Naudline, Kristina, Jorge and I met up in Giverny. We were given a great studio with great light, but on sunny days it’s hard to remain indoors with the beautiful French countryside all around. So I went out to paint and have been doing so since. And in fact we’ve all been painting the landscape in some way: Jorge has been going to the Monet Gardens, Kristina is painting nature abstractions and chasing cows, and Naudline, whose work is imagination-based, has painted Giverny vistas and the colors have inspired her. On hot days it gets toasty in the studio, and this too prods us onward, outside into the sun, we the bold painters. It’s cool in the shade.

Le studio

The Giverny landscape has reacquainted me with challenges of outdoor painting, which I didn’t pursue in NYC, and has given me a chance to experiment. Coming here I knew I wanted to try painting with dust. And I knew I wanted to paint in color. Most of my landscape work in the past was monochromatic, a combination of charcoal powder and chalk and all of it sandwiched between clear acrylic. Practically I couldn’t work that way here in Giverny, so I went back to traditional brushes and started doing studies.  Slowly, I started to stretch my landscape-painting color-muscles again, building confidence, thinking back to the landscape painting class I had with the mighty Mr. Nathan Fowkes. From him I learned to use a watercolor palette augmented with white gouache, which allows for the quick contrast of transparency and opacity, a technique often employed in oil painting (transparent shadows, opaque lights); with this palette, the watercolors are essentially transparent, but with a little white gouache they become opaque colors.
Lily painting.  Intense!

During my first week in Giverny the studies I was doing were alright, and I knew with much more practice I would start to get my colors under control.  But I still wanted to paint with dust. Indeed, after seeing the Pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat at the Musee d'Orsay, I really wanted to paint with dust. These, and all the impressionist paintings of Monet and others, implied approaching color less directly and more of as an effect of optical recombination in the eye. I wanted to try this for myself. I felt it would take me closer to what I was doing monochromatically, and give me new directions to explore.

Seurat’s Poseuse de dos [Model, Back View], 1887

With a bag of pumice as my powder and watercolors as my pigment, I manufactured my own dust. But without a fixative that is safe to use, like the casein fixatives available In the U.S., I couldn’t find a good way to make the dust stick to my paper. All I had available were the nasty ones that smell like a biohazard and I could hardly spread this miasma throughout beautiful Giverny.  Additionally, working with pigments in a powder form can be toxic. So, the dust was a dud.


Studies Studies Studies

Then one day, frustrated by failures, stuck in studies, vexed by the search for something vital and more me — I realized I was just making things complicated and I should paint dots.  The thought of endlessly dabbing my life away with a tiny pointed brush had been debilitating, but — last Saturday, as the resident chamber musicians serenaded me on the Terra grounds, their notes mixing with the wind and the birdsong — I reached down, and there were my stipple brushes, and that’s exactly what they’re for!  Each dab creates a field of tiny dots, and suddenly I started to get more interesting color that, in places at any rate, had that vibrating quality that is found in some Impressionist painting.  And even better, this fits into the whole noise of perception thing I’m after, dancing, twirling photons, like a field of darkness at night, like film-grain and memory.  So, I’m going to keep playing with this.


My painting of Monet’s lilies

I want to thank Véronique Bossard, Miranda Fontaine and Cèliane Ainaron of the Terra Foundation for American Art, and Jan Huntley of the Foundation Claude Monet, all for their amazing hospitality.  In particular I must single out Miranda for her generosity and thoughtfulness.  Miranda, elle est supercool!


Academy Summer Residencies 2016: Beijing

Our final dispatch from Beijing is from Amina Kerimova MFA 2017. 

I’ve been lucky to have visited many places around the globe in my life. Asia happens to be one of my favorites. Compared to Hong Kong, where I once lived for a couple of months, it quickly became apparent how different and unique a city like Beijing truly was. Despite the fact that China is densely populated and one encounters a lot of noise, pollution, navigation troubles and other problems, I still fell in love with the country as my time there kept passing by. There was calmness and a homey feeling that had been absent in Hong Kong. 


When I was awarded the residency, I decided to distance myself from any preconceptions or assumptions about visiting a city like Beijing. I was just excited to work as an artist in a completely new city and open my life to an adventure. I've been advised by last year’s Chinese artists in residence not to make any plans for the prospective work that I was about to create, because plans tend to change in a context as different as Beijing. So I started my residency with an open mind filled with excitement for something new.



(Beijing landscapes)

 During my first week I tried to get to know the real Beijing - no tourist attractions, just get to know it from inside out and discover beauty in everything. The greyness of pollution can be depressing, but as an artist you can fall in love with greys. As a result, Beijing landscapes became animated in color to me. Having found my subject and inspiration I dove into work - I wanted to meet the expectations of the Academy that had given me this unique chance to be in Beijing. Plus, I could exhibit my art at a Beijing gallery!



               
(My first memory based landscapes, work in progress)

During my first year of school, I used to photograph unusual compositions that I found fascinating and create landscapes and cityscapes from them. The pieces were often visually abstract, but on closer inspection one would realize they've been crafted from real-life instead of imagination.  In China, I have decided not to use photographs but my memories and imagination whilst continuing to focus on landscape, architecture, space, sky and light. This was a new step for me and the approach definitely took more time. There was quite a number of times that I would sit in the studio for hours just staring at my work, ruminating about what to do next. My mind was clogged up with thousands of ideas of how to best project my impressions of the city.  


  (My Beijing inspired art)

I came up with the idea that you don’t need anything obvious to express your feelings and love for a place. All that’s needed is the right mood and the right colors on the canvas. That's why I chose to use Chinese spoons to express landscape. The “spoons” were gigantic - 2 x 3 meters! A work this big was an experiment in itself. Knowing that the art materials in Beijing are way cheaper than in NYC, I decided to buy beautiful heavy linen which costs $100 compared to $800 or even more in NYC. I knew for fact that I would never be able to finish the work in China or have the chance to transport the linen back to NYC without damage. But I decided I didn’t care and started my spoons anyway. I still remember how physically exhausting it was to paint such large scale! The day after I started I was so sore I couldn’t walk! 
  
                     


(Exploring Beijing)


CAFA (China Central Academy of Fine Arts) was undoubtedly a large and beautiful academy — a home to varieties of buildings and a museum. However, the building was under continuous construction during the summer, and as a consequence we had a huge fan blowing nothing but hot air in our studio, making it impossible to stay there.  Oh well, at least the paint dried faster! 

After the CAFA and New York Academy of Art exhibition in DAYUNTANG MUSEUM at the end of the month, we all had a huge dinner, at with which we reminisced about the month that we had spent in Beijing. The month of living and breathing and talking about art 24 hours a day was coming to an end.  I started to feel sad about it coming to a close.  Beijing was my muse, a perfect place for me to depict the juxtaposition of nature and manmade structures.  There is no doubt that residing in Beijing has influenced my artistic life immensely. Even though I have never completed any artist residency before, I know for sure this one will be unforgettable and incomparable to any future residencies I hope to accomplish. I will have an endless trove of memories from my trip to China. Asia will always be my source of inspiration and I am already looking forward to creating more China inspired art.  


                            

(last free days in Beijing)


My gratitude towards Academy for offering me the privilege to undertake this endeavor in endless. And of course to my sweet Academy friends - Tania, Isaac, Pedro and everyone I met in Beijing. Thank you so much for being so loving and supportive!