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DE-NATURE by Daniel Gerwin

The artists included in De-Nature, curated by the painter Wendy White, are concerned with dismantling what might be considered “natural” in painting, i.e. a coherently painted canvas stretched over a rectangular wooden frame and

displayed on a wall. Disassembling and reconfiguring the elements of painting is a project that has been ongoing for at least a century, but White offers insight into how a new generation of artists is attacking the problem. In the absence of consensus painting norms to transgress, the artists in De-Nature play freely with the old alphabet of painting, rearranging the letters to generate new strategies for the articulation of meaning. The emphasis is on reconstruction and fresh possibilities.

Bill Saylor and Paul DeMuro hew closest to tradition while finding unique ways to invigorate it. In an inspired curatorial move, White has leaned Saylor’s painting “Neptune’s Machine” against the wall on a slanted floor, propping up the low corner of the painting with a little micro-pedestal. Saylor, the veteran in this exhibit, paints with such humor and abandon that this small propping gesture fits perfectly, coming across large and hilariously absurd. The youngest member of the show is DeMuro, who applies paint like double-thick cake frosting. His vibrantly colored patterns allude to quilts, tapestries, and other fabric works without directly assuming their tropes. DeMuro has also created a site-specific, monochrome installation in off-whites and creams, taking a bedroom closet as its point of departure. The display of shoes, garments, sheets, shelves, and other familiars is abstracted just enough to shift into the realm of pictorial imagination.

Brian Bellot and Lamar Peterson share an impulse to complicated goofiness. Bellot’s “Clock-eyed Cat (Coco)” is simultaneously adorable and bizarre, its eyes transformed to symmetrical clocks marking time. Peterson’s “Red-Handed” is cutesy at first glance, but descends deeper into darkness the longer one looks. In a laminated, candy-colored world, a man sits in his front yard, grinning insanely at a disembodied red hand on a table, while his feet disappear down a hole. Collectible stickers of childhood are scattered across the picture’s surface: piglet, butterfly, fish, green pepper, a teddy bear’s head, and lots more. The forced glee and funhouse nostalgia both amuse and sicken.

Sarah Peters, Rachel Foullon, and Liz Markus each work in a stripped down vocabulary. Peters’ drawings consist of crosshatching writ large, and transformed into an elemental play of sweeping curves, light, and darkness evoking the sublime. Foullon’s custom-made cedar planks refer to rural architecture, but in this context they also recall wooden canvas stretchers, splayed out in diagonals to take possession of the wall from floor to ceiling. In the center of the intersecting planks Foullon has driven an enormous nail, from which a dyed canvas hangs like a worn apron at the ready, or as an abstract sign to be read and interpreted. Markus’s work feels the most bare-bones of all, a diptych of stretched canvas on which she has collaged a few pages from art magazines just above a faintly glowing horizontal line of paint, suggesting a horizon in the commercial art market. However, the dominant feature of the diptych is the large and barren expanse of canvas, as if to say, “Hey, relax, there’s a big world out there.”

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Interview with Mike Andrews

Daniel Gerwin: How did you begin making tapestries? Did you start as a painter, and if so, what led you to switch your approach?

Mike Andrews: I started making this type of work a few years ago. The first pieces were called “Sure Licks”. I used a homemade frame loom to make a gnarly fabric that I turned into dense sculptural forms that sat on the floor. They were a combination of materials like yarn, glazed ceramic, day-glo plastic, and dyed polyurethane foam. At the time, I was interested in material conflict within singular forms, and how materials carry historical and metaphorical information. I have always been attracted to the kitschy power of materials from the craft store, and their manufactured sentimentality. They reference homemade forms so laden with genuine emotion that they become horrible and oppressive. To me that conflict is simultaneously sweet and terrible.

DG: Homemade forms "so laden with emotion that they become horrible and oppressive" - could you give some examples?

MA: Were you ever the lucky recipient of a weirdo handmade present from your Grandma or your crazy Auntie?

DG: My grandma didn't do that, and now that I think about it, neither did any of my aunts. What did your grandma or aunt used to make for you - do you still have any of those things?

MA: My Grandma was always making stuff out of yarn, fabric, and paper, and she was always encouraging us to have some kind of project in the works. I still have this great doorstop that she made - it’s totally strange. When we would go on vacation, my family would have these competitions to make the most pathetic thing possible. They were hysterical. I learned what I now know as kitsch at a very young age. It helped shape my bent outlook on the world.

DG: It’s interesting that you're coming to tapestry from sculpture, I would not have guessed that from your recent work, since it hangs on the wall like painting. What are some of the specific painting traditions that have informed your approach, and what are some of the textile references?

MA: After I made a few of the Sure Licks I decided to allow myself to leave the woven sheets alone, and exhibit them without the addition of other materials. Because I considered my studio work as sculpture, it was a big move for me to specifically include references to painting and textiles.

The painters Jonathan Lasker and Albert Oehlen have been consistent models for me of how to visualize a construction and it’s demise in the same work. I admire artists who aggressively challenge ideas of taste and completion. The type of work that grabs me is work that looks quick, messy, and hurried, but upon closer inspection you can tell there is focus and logic.

I also admire artists who work intuitively with non-intuitive construction techniques like weaving. Sheila Hicks made these incredible lap-sized weavings while traveling around the world. She grabbed whatever material was available to make these quick and tactile pieces. They have the immediacy of a drawing, by means of a labored process. The color relationships within the pieces are really uneasy too, which make them punchy and confusing.

DG: I just saw some great work by Sheila Hicks last week, and I’m not surprised that she’s important to you. Can you talk a bit about your approach to form and color when you're making a piece? How do you develop the form of a given work, and how do your decisions about color evolve over the course of making that work?

MA: Some of the tapestries are planned ahead of time, using the forms and palette from a drawing to guide the work. Other pieces are just a flurry of whatever colors are around the studio at that time. For each piece I pick a particular palette, and then try to stay within that system. I like to surprise myself with color combinations and see how nasty or tight they can get. My new works are really open, a barrage of color. They are kind of nauseating.

I think my whole process is about disruption. Once something starts to work in terms of composition and form, I challenge it or take it apart. It's a constant back and forth. With "Grey Peak, then fall" I specifically chose a muted, dreary palette. I wasn’t trying to make an image, but it started to go that way so I nudged the composition in that direction. That piece is particularly dense. I really wanted to play with a kind of aggressive relief.

DG: I enjoyed seeing your drawings at the gallery. They reminded me of the scribble-drawings that toddlers make, and I wonder if you are pulling from that infantile place that also interested artists like Jean Dubuffet?

MA: Definitely. The drawings could be thought of as proposals for unrealized forms or situations. Some are funny, some are off kilter, some are just sad. They amplify the intuitive flavor of the sculptures.

The word "infantile" suggests something raw, instantaneous, and clumsy. It never made sense to me to tidy up a sculpture or a drawing, or worry about whether or not something can stand on its own. My work is on a spectrum where on one end you have completion, and on the other end, a big mess. The work gives form to multiple ideas about motivation and skill.

Of course Jean Dubuffet is an influence, as are countless other artists both trained and untrained, that deal with materiality, expression, and eroticism.

DG: Eroticism - I hadn't gotten that from your work initially. How does eroticism find its way into your work?

MA: One of the things I love about work by some untrained artists, and other people who make things but don't identify as artists, is the way that desire is sublimated into physical forms. The frenetic use of materials by these people often gives shape to their anxieties about their own conflicted sexuality. You can really feel it when you are around work of this nature. The materials I use already come pre-packaged with associations of gender and sexuality, so I try to muck up those associations in order to create something unclassifiable, something queer.

DG: Your work definitely succeeds in making a mess of preconceptions about tapestry, sculpture, painting, gender, and sexuality, which generates an implicit politics to your practice. Do you think explicitly about a kind of politics in your art?

MA: I was in undergrad in the 90’s, and I was very intimidated by the debates about gender and identity in visual art. I was so immersed in reading theory that I would talk myself out of making anything, or exploring anything through materials. It has taken me a long time to figure out a way to embed these kinds of issues into forms without being direct or illustrative of a particular dogma.

I think my work embodies a refusal to tidy up ideas or political positions, but doesn’t ignore them. I like having multiple associations. The tired binary oppositions of high vs. low, male vs. female, craft vs. art aren’t particularly juicy any more. Not to say they aren’t still highly charged conversations, but I would like to enter those debates from a different angle.

Interview by Daniel Gerwin

Images: Installation view, Pretty Good and Grey Peak, Then Fall

Installation view, Oooh That Smell

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Jolie Laide is pleased to present DE-NATURE, a group exhibition curated by Wendy White. An opening reception will be held on Friday, November 5th, 2010, 6-8 PM.

Denaturation repurposes an organic structure and redirects its use. Inherent qualities are purposely altered or completely removed. Similarly, defying expected artwork roles—the over-the-couch, the complacent, the vague, the benignly decorative, or the polite—requires tandem acts of destruction and declassification on the part of the artist.

Like splintered eventscapes, Rachel Foullon’s custom-milled cedar and hand-dyed canvas forms re-contextualize the materials of vernacular architecture. Sarah Peters’ densely layered drawings repurpose traditional techniques by way of something psychologically unnerving, not unlike Lamar Peterson, whose images of so-called familial paradise upend mundane notions of desire and reward. Paul DeMuro’s painting/chunk/accumulations have an alchemist’s sense of material-spiritual transformation. In a visual spackling of pop iconography and urgent abstraction, Liz Markus plays Punk’s anti-virtuosity against high design. Brian Belott’s collages are hybrids of insouciant gesture and detritus, as are Bill Saylor’s riotous, flame-licking abstractions.

BRIAN BELOTT has had solo exhibitions at Galerie Zürcher, New York and Paris, CANADA, NY, Freight + Volume, NY, and Stux Gallery, NY. His group exhibitions include Exile, Berlin, Germany; Andrew Edlin Gallery, NY; MACRO Future, Rome, Italy; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, NY; Cheim & Read, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, OR; Ritter/Zamet, London, UK; Galerie Carlos Cardenas, Paris, France; ZieherSmith, NY; Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS; Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen, DK; and Daniel Reich Gallery, NY, among others. Belott has a BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY and is represented by Galerie Zürcher. He lives and works in New York, NY.

PAUL DEMURO had a solo exhibition at The Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, Philadelphia, PA. His group exhibitions include Oil and Water, organized by John Yau, at Gallery Schlesinger, NY and Coleman Bancroft, NY; White Box, NY; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Wilmington, DE; Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; University of Delaware, Newark, DE; Padlock Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; and Fahrenheit Gallery, Kansas City, MO. He has an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University and a BFA from Tyler School of Art. DeMuro lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

RACHEL FOULLON has had solo exhibitions at ltd los angeles, CA and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, NY. She has participated in group exhibitions at Museum 52, NY; Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles, CA; Wallspace, NY; Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Q.E.D., Los Angeles, CA; Public Art Fund, NY; Andrea Rosen Gallery, NY; Galerie Lelong, NY; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, NY, among others. She has an MFA from Columbia University and was a founding member of the curatorial initiative Public Holiday Projects. Foullon will be part of a group exhibition at Canyon Ranch Resort in Miami, FL, concurrent with NADA Miami in December 2010. She is represented by ltd los angeles. Foullon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

LIZ MARKUS has had solo exhibitions at ZieherSmith, NY; Galleri Loyal, Stockholm, Sweden; and White Columns, NY. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Priska Juschka, NY; Kinkead Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA; SCA Contemporary, Alberquerque, NM; NADA/ART IN/VISIBLE SPACES, Brooklyn, NY; ZieherSmith, NY; Galleri Opdahl, Stavanger, Norway; James Graham & Sons, NY; Werkstätte, NY; Temple Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; CANADA, NY; Kulter Banhoff Bremen, Bremen, Germany; White Columns, NY and the Hamburg Kunsthaus, Hamburg, Germany. Markus has an MFA from Tyler School of Art and a BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY. She is represented by ZieherSmith, where she has a solo exhibition opening on November 18, 2010. Markus lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

SARAH PETERS has had solo exhibitions at Winkleman Gallery, NY; The Front, New Orleans, LA; and artSTRAND Gallery, Provincetown, MA. She has participated in two-person and group exhibitions at PS122 Gallery, NY; Morris Museum of Art, Morristown, NJ; Monya Rowe Gallery, NY; Feigen Contemporary, NY; and Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA, among others. Peters was a 2009-2010 Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. She has an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, a BFA from University of Pennsylvania, and a certificate from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Peters is represented by Winkleman Gallery. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

LAMAR PETERSON has had solo exhibitions at Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Fredericks & Freiser, NY; Deitch Projects, NY; The Studio Museum of Harlem, NY; and Franklin Art Works, Minneapolis, MN. His group exhibitions include Fredericks & Freiser, NY; CTRL Gallery, Houston, TX; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; and Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM. He has an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is represented by Fredericks & Freiser, where he will have his third solo exhibition in 2011. Peterson lives and works in New York, NY.

BILL SAYLOR has had solo exhibitions at Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Leo Koenig, Inc., NY; Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX; Galleri Loyal, Stockholm, Sweden; and Spokane Falls College, Spokane, WA. He has participated in group exhibitions at Anonymous Gallery, NY; Zach Feuer Gallery, NY; Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Leo Koenig, Inc., NY; Hiromi Yoshii Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; CANADA Gallery, NY; Yerba Buena Art Center, San Francisco, CA; Colby College of Art, Waterville, ME; John Connelly Presents, NY; and MOCA DC, Washington, DC, among others. Saylor was a 2010 Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. He is the subject of a 14-page feature interview in the current issue of The Journal. Saylor is represented by Leo Koenig Inc. and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently collaborating with Harmony Korine on a book of drawings to be published by The Journal.

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Easton Miller, Andrew Holmquist, & Mike Andrews

The juxtaposition of work by Easton Miller, Andrew Holmquist, and Mike Andrews invites consideration of the ways in which material and image interact to generate content in contemporary art.

Easton Miller avails himself of an array of media to make objects that have both painterly and sculptural qualities. Many of his works jab a sharp tongue into their cheek while directing our attention to choice aspects of Americana. Glory, for example, uses basketball skin and faux shearling to evoke the NBA star rolling down the street in his lavishly appointed SUV. Hot Mess, one assumes, is dedicated to celebrity sex kittens like Paris Hilton. Two illusionistic pieces are devoted to dessert: Blue Ribbon (State Fair) mimics the look of a cherry pie, and Decisions is an ode to spumoni ice cream.

Andrew Holmquist explores painting by mining and reinterpreting its past. Using squeegee-brushes of his own design, he creates ribbons of oil paint that twist through space, distant descendants of the frilled collars on Rembrandt’s burghers or the extravagantly folding fabric in Titian’s portraits. Holmquist stakes out a territory that investigates the relationship between mimesis and free, liquid play. In one untitled work, the paint-ribbons end in hands gesturing upward as if in prayer, desperation, or maybe just to ease the pain of a bad headache. Other paintings engage the recent vocabulary of abstraction, layering different mark-making strategies to build his compositions.

Mike Andrews uses fiber, including cotton and acrylic yarns, to draw connections between painting and craft projects such as knitted sweaters and tea-cozies, while alluding to digital pixilation with stitched and woven marks. The intentional formlessness of some pieces allows them to be equally at home hung on the wall or laid on the floor like a disemboweled throw-rug. His tapestry Psychic Bastard takes a somewhat different tack, operating on a scale roughly twice the height of the viewer and woven in high-key green, red, white, and black. The structure and rhythm of many of Andrews’ tapestries hearken back to abstract expressionism, with swaths of colored fiber standing in for brushstrokes. This resemblance to muscular, historically male-dominated ab-ex painting is interesting, as the artist is a man following in the footsteps of women who pioneered much of contemporary fiber-based art.

Profile by Daniel Gerwin

Images: Gettin' Lucky, Easton Miller

Untitled, Andrew Holmquist

Psychic Bastard, Mike Andrews

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"Too Close for Comfort," James Gallagher & Ryan Gallagher

Among several projects presented by Jolie Laide Gallery for this year’s Fringe Festival in Philadelphia, James Gallagher’s invitation was distinguished by its inclusion of his son Ryan, a student/artist at Pratt Institute, School of Art and Design, initiating a first-time collaboration between this artist and his son. For James, whose collage-based practice is driven by found images, the opportunity also allowed for his intimate, gallery-sized gestures to undergo a shift in both scale and meaning, metamorphosing into street art of a very particular kind. For this project, an 8” high collage was transformed, piece-by-piece, into a 12’ image covering an exterior door near the gallery’s entrance. Holding on to the pleasures of cutting and pasting, as well as the attendant surface surprises one associates with the intimacy of collage, the enlarged image was put together at the site during one afternoon. To the left and adjacent to the gallery is his son Ryan’s response, another 12’ door covering, another afternoon’s effort, but one that was painted in response to the work of his father. The title for the collaboration also came from Ryan, this time responding to the title of his father’s 8” collage, “To Close”. Those words were part of the original work, leftover information printed on a camera manual’s page that had made it into the collage. In this outsized, outdoor version those words were cropped out of the image, but not before Ryan would pick up on the play they offered, deciding the collaboration should be called “Too Close for Comfort”, and with that, adding another layer to the meaning of both works, and driving home the fact of this father/son collaborative work once more.

In James Gallagher’s composite image, a suited, and something like hooded male figure dominates. Its gesture is uncertain but evocative, slightly bent and looking down, as if the collaged blocks of paper hovering just above its head were bearing some invisible weight. Complicating the image further (in the most visually pleasurable way) is the fact of the door’s paneling whose linear marks propose another invisible layer that the image might be floating on or under. And the metal street address, 228, reading through the paper collage, contributes a further mysterious note, suggesting the otherwise unidentified man might now be known by his number. On its own, the figure’s posture is still anonymous and enigmatic, in keeping with the artist’s general interest in what revelations reside in how one occupies one’s own space; positioned to the right of Ryan’s work, the figure appears to have gained some extended purpose, as it seems to be peering at the accompanying image, implicating it in this collaborative field with just its gaze – what a father can do - and generating some meaning beyond its own, contained self. What the figure “sees” is a painted white field where several outlined tombstones continue to recede until they reach the nearly blank, black field above them. Light, random spots dot the blackness, suggesting that snow might be falling, and supporting the snow-covered reading of the tombstones below. A whisper of some other landscape is barely noticeable just beneath the image, further echoing with its subtle simplicity the informing source for Ryan, a print by Ando Hiroshige, a favorite artist of his. Mixing a contemporary, provisional, Western attitude with this older, Eastern influence suspends the moment, capturing the eye of the father’s figure (or should we say father figure?) and making a compelling case for holding our attention as well. From the start, Ryan had suggested that he would change the meaning of his father’s image with his own, and in fact, at least for this moment on Juniper Street, he has.

by Eileen Neff

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Robert Horvath Interview with JL Schnabel

JL Schnabel: In your statement you talk about how our culture and country is filled with amnesiacs who have readily forgotten the current horrors of the world and instead have turned to the glitter of celebrity and consumerism. Can you talk about why this has become the major expository theme of your work?

Robert Horvath: I grew up in the former Czechoslovakia. My dad was an art teacher, but could not teach because of his conflicts with the regime at the time. As a child I was taken to many museums and was exposed to various kinds of art. My father and I would go visit a local gypsy artist as well as Old World potters that produced functional pottery. Like most of us growing up behind the Iron Curtain, I pictured America as a utopian land with the understanding that I wouldn’t ever be able to visit.

Shortly after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the borders opened and the ability to travel West became a reality for us. I participated in an exchange program and ended up in a university in North Texas. During my graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I began working on a body of work dealing with the nightlife. This was a significant and life-changing time for me, as I finally started dealing with my sexuality.

Once I started seeing the reality of all the shine and glamour of club life and the people participating in it, my work became more focused on the psychology behind the behaviors and the value systems of our modern society. I never thought of that body of work as a negative criticism of the scene, though.

JS: Although the “landscapes” you conjure in your newer paintings aren’t based within the natural world, they have the appearance of something very real and have the feel of being satellite photographs. Is this contradiction of real but yet not real something you were thinking about?

RH: I was reading about the concept of the “memes” in Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene. It is interesting to me to think about how the information systems work. I think that the ability of manipulating information and having control over the way that this information is spread is fascinating to me. Gossip is a perfect example of this transfer of information- I love the idea of the multiple mutations that it can go through as it infects individual minds.

As for the idea of “landscapes,” I think they can exist on multiple levels. There is always the macro/micro question which I am not very concerned with. Entities that exist in my work are something like three-dimensional scans of non-tangibles. I like the mystery they can carry. They are living entities, but not the way we understand living and breathing organisms. I know it sounds so sci-fi, yet I have no history of growing up watching Star Wars or playing video games as with most of my generation. I just don’t think that was on the Communist system agenda.

JS: Your earlier works were more figure-based, yet it still retained the gelatinous and tactile shapes found more fully realized in your new paintings. What caused you to remove the humans from your work?

RH: I think the humans needed to go. They are still in the work, but more symbolically. I am not really interested in the figure as someone who loves drawing nudes, for example. Figure was in my work because it was something the work required. By removing the figure completely, I got rid of the constraints that it always had for me. There is too much history associated with painting the figure; I am not interested in that dialog anymore.

You are correct, though; the gelatinous surfaces stayed. I feel very attracted to something that is so slick and flawless- it makes me question its authenticity. By carrying over the shiny, slick, and flawless surfaces of skin from my models to my “forms”, you could say that in some ways the figure never left the work.

When I painted figures, I wanted then to look as if they were made out of some squishy silicone, plastic, waxy material. When doing photo shots with my models, I would have them put on a peel of cosmetic mask. They could not smile or that shiny surface on their face would start peeling off. It was fun working that way. They were alive but not really, I guess. Imagine a Realdoll, a perfect sex doll, but alive.

JS: Can you talk a bit about how you choose to title your pieces and how they are important to understanding your work?

RH: I was thinking about some powerful concepts/ideologies that I don’t necessarily agree with for the titles I chose for the current work. But there are some goofy ones like “Braincandy” that directly refers to a movie that is so stupidly mindless that you brain’s only function is stuff popcorn in your mouth. I think titles are important to my work as it gives a way for a viewer to enter from a specific place, after that they are free to wander around. Plus, I think my titles tend to have a little sarcasm mixed with silliness.

JS: The glazing technique you employ in your work is rooted in the old world master tradition and yet appears in such a modern and futuristic context. Is this choice conscious? Also, this style of painting must be a lengthy process. How do you feel while you are creating these works? How do you choose which compositions to commit to?

RH: My paintings take long time to make. I am not as prolific as some other artists out there. I am not concerned about making tons of work - devoting months on one painting is a great experience for me. It exercises my patience, discipline, and focus. The process of making my paintings is similar to way I think of my life - I am dedicated to my goals, and I will take time to enjoy the journey. Now, because I make only a few paintings, it does not mean I am limited on ideas, I just don’t feel like I need to put it all out there.

Technique is something that always comes up in discussion in my work. I know that contemporary art world seems to sometimes forget about finely-crafted objects and tends to focus purely on the concept. I realize that the new technologies of delivering visual culture today create huge competition with works that don’t move with the speed of light. I want my work to mirror who I am as an artist; I am not there to compete. I am a very meticulous person, and my work needs to show it.

I love the process of creating something. There is beauty in systems that simply work well together. I enjoy learning about the Old Masters’ approach to make a painting, so that I can adjust it to fit my needs to make work now. My glazing technique is my way to translate working in watercolor to oil. I think colors stay brighter when left in their pure form layered and mixed optically.

Interview by JL Schnabel

Images: "Neurofraud," "Ignavus Viridae," & "Dangerous Dolls" by Robert Horvath

Artist's Profile here.

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Robert Horvath

Slick glamour and grotesque glitter converge in Indianapolis-based Robert Horvath’s newest body of work. The show features seven oil paintings and six sculptures; the latter of which are created to act as reference for the paintings but add an additional sense of anomaly to the collection. This sense of incongruous, convulsive beauty seems to lie at the heart of the show and creates a subtle tension between the works. The oil paintings, all featuring otherworldly abstractions of conjured cosmos, are composed in the Old-World master style of painting. This technique includes glazing, an intense and long process that involves building thin layers of paint on the canvas to create dimension. Horvath’s skilled approach to this technique creates an ironic hyper-realistic mirage. The paintings appear to have the look of photographs, but the contents are wholly imagined.

While the paintings take on slick faux realism, the sculptures appear to rebel against the traditional techniques of their counterparts. Assembled from found objects such as neon Easter eggs, hardened glitter and plastic chandelier crystals, they exist as maquettes for the paintings. Elaborate and dizzyingly colorful, they appear as exposed alien organs and futuristic headdresses ribbed with rhinestones and oozing, thick foam. It’s hard to imagine the same artist could create both forms, but the evidence is in the paintings. The shapes of crystals and foam are apparent in the work while freckled glitter show up in pieces such as “Nerofraud.”

The dark humor of Horvath is most evident in his titles. With names such as “Brain Candy” and “15 Minutes of Fame,” a bit more of his intentions are revealed. When asked about his work, he replies with questions:

“What happens when glamour loses it’s bodily functions? What happens when you stick your finger in it? Is it rotten?”

This focus on glamour began in earlier works when Horvath was still using human models coated in layers of thick makeup to explore his themes of faux glamour and the underbelly of club nightlife. Since the deletion of figures within his paintings, he has more fully explored the idea of what exists within the flawless exterior of luxury and popular culture. While some of the paintings portray whole orbs with mutant growths of brightly lit light sabers and glittering diamonds, others appear broken open, their guts exuding toxic poison or perfume into their respective stratospheres. With the addition of calculated and sharp geometric shapes, the blobs of pearls and bridges of jeweled strings gain a more grotesque nature, appearing gelatinous and alive.

The tension between the forms of the work and its themes plays out wonderfully in the gallery. While it is evident that the sculptures could serve as reference, they also take on a playful tone as the youthful knockoffs of the elaborate and flawless oil paintings. The beauty and the grotesqueness of the works appeal to our culture’s habit of revering the luxury and glamour that most of the population can’t afford, it exposes its flaws and it’s triumphs, all while retaining a witty sense of humor.

Profile by J.L.Schnabel

Image: "BRAINCANDY," Robert Horvath

Artist's Interview here.

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Interview with Fabienne Lasserre by Daniel Gerwin

Daniel: Before getting into your current work, I'd like to ask you to trace the development of your thinking a bit. You started with painting, but you were clearly looking to depart from two dimensions. Can you talk about how you moved from flat paintings to your installation, The Cave, and then beyond that to your current practice? With The Cave in particular, what aspects of that work felt like they achieved your aims, and what aspects felt like limitations that led you to adjust your practice toward its current modalities?

Fabienne: When I made The Cave I was interested in contradictions, how opposing elements create meaning within an image. I made this after living in Mexico City for a year -a city of contrasts and clashes if there is one- and I was drawn to the syncretic qualities of its culture. In La Sonora, a market in the North East of the city, there was a whole section dedicated

to witchcraft, and the supernatural. One would go there for spiritual advice, or on a very practical level, for a spell, oration or charm meant to have a precise outcome. What fascinated me there, beyond the sheer abundance and variety of altars, plants, lotions, amulets, etc, was how these artifacts formed a coherent symbolic system that blended and used elements from Catholicism

, Aztec and pre-Hispanic beliefs, Indian mythology, US pop culture, Cuban Santeria, Brazilian Macumba, voodoo, to name only a few.

I remember an altar with Darth Vader, Kali, Xango, and many other figures. There were also these very kitschy transparent resin pyramids, with buddhas, voodoo symbols, images of saints, and designs made with sequins and rice grains, cast in the resin. You were instructed to place the pyramid on the TV for its powers to be effective.

The arrangement of symbols and metaphors at La Sonora didn't pertain to a binary or Manichean system of thought. Rather, they implied the existence of numerous opposing forces in the world. This was a complex, messy, hybrid belief system, embracing paradox and conflict, but also very direct and literal. So the etched drawings on my TV screens combined elements inspired from popular culture and traditional systems: alchemy manuscripts, medieval bestiaries, religions from South and Central America and the Caribbean (which themselves have African and European roots), tattoos, manga, comix, wrestlers, and more. And, since the TVs were turned on, you could hear and see the shows behind the images, yet another layer of cultural activity. My goal was to create a site (a cave) where violence, beauty, abjection, sexuality, the decorative, humor, etc., existed together outside of standard hierarchies. I was also looking at medieval art, and interested in how painting worked with architecture - in churches, for instance- and how images could work in an environment instead of as discrete pieces. Evidently, painting and installation are not mutually exclusive categories.

But, to answer your question (...finally!), I didn't really move from 2d to 3d, or from painting to sculpture. The Cave was one of my very early shows, and the 3-dimensional aspect was there already. I think that from the start I was trying to find ways to adapt painting to a practice that would be more flexible, more expansive, and with less of the pressures, baggage and tradition one wrestles with in painting.

Yet, I see my current practice as very indebted to painting. First of all, color is paramount. And surface, also, is crucial. Too, my sculptures rely on the haptic, the sense of touch, rather than on constructed spatial/physical relationships. In fact, gravity is the most annoying thing I have to deal with. If I could "compose" my sculptures like one makes a painting - i.e. without paying attention to weight, balance or any other physical law, I'd probably be much happier! I'm being facetious here of course; to me the most compelling things about objects or sculptures is that they are really "things". Things that exist in the world. They don't represent or refer to, they are. A few months ago, I went to a show of Spanish religious polychrome sculpture at the National Gallery, and it occurred to me that "painted sculpture" has been relegated to the lowest rung on the art hierarchy. It runs counter to notions of truth to materials in sculpture, and it uses color in a literal manner (pink for the skin, blue for the dress, etc) that is seen as cosmetic and superficial. Color is never (seen as) literal in painting because it operates in a two-dimensional mental space. I've been looking at - and loving- Christian polychrome religious statuary for years. There is something really significant in the ways these pieces combine decoration (and the ideals associated with the decorated) and directness (or literalness). This is true not only for their use of color, but also symbolism and body language. Furthermore, polychrome statuary goes against any notion of medium specificity. So, my sculptures/things (and wall pieces/things) definitely come from the lineage of the idiot cousin of the art family!

Daniel: There is much to talk about in what you've just said, and I will try to circle back to it, but for now I want to round things out a bit more. You say your work is descended from "the lineage of the idiot cousin of the art family," referring to polychrome sculpture, and I know you're partially joking, but I want to ask you about some of your other forebears, dead and living, who are solidly within the canon. I am speaking of Eva Hesse and Franz West, whose DNA is evident in aspects of your work. If these artists are indeed important to you, can you share your thoughts about their art, what you have taken from them and what you have chosen to leave behind?

Fabienne: Yes, Eva Hesse is a crucial influence. She forced a shape-shifting Body into the modalities of Minimalism. Of course, the Body was not anathema to Minimalist art, which placed such importance on the position/body of the viewer, and how it conditioned the experience of the piece, and experience in general. But, for me, Hesse expanded these concerns with perception and experience from the visual to the haptic. I think a lot about the sense of touch and its role and implications. In 2008 I made a series of prints (and some sculptures) entitled "Gropings", in which I imagined a world in which touch, not sight, was the dominant sense. I was wondering how this would affect our perception and understanding of the world. I thought that the sense of touch, dispersed as it is throughout the body’s surface, would entail thoughts that were more layered and multiple, less systematic and centrally ordered.

"I was also not wanting to have such a definite plan ... (I was) just not

interested in working out a whole model in small and following it." (Eva

Hesse, October Files, 21). I think her process parallels the importance of

the haptic in her work: she feels things out. She chooses an indirect course out of a refusal to prescribe wh

at the outcome should be. This is super important to me. Chance and uncertainty are structural elements of my practice. I think doubt - which has nothing to do with mistrust and

everything to do with an acknowledgment of fallibility - is necessary for speculation, for figuring out. Many times, Hesse's work seems stubbornly forced together. Stubbornness is a quality I value in art - I'd love to curate a show of stubborn art! It is present in Franz West's work, and the title of the catalogue of his show at the Baltimore Museum of Art "To Build a House You Start by the Roof" embodies it perfectly. A not-so-glorious Body is implied in all of his work, along with not-so-glorious feelings: the awkward, irritated, embarrassed (as opposed to grand, noble emotions such as anger, melancholia, or pride, for instance. I think that the combination of clumsy and stubborn is really fertile for West. That combination, which doesn't need to be forceful or aggressive (it can be playful and lyrical), is important for many other artists I admire: Ree Morton, Dieter Roth, Amy Sillman, Lynda Benglis, to name a few. In West, I like how the abject is couched in a pop sensibility.

Daniel: I am struck by your conception of the haptic as a means of transcending binaries that are taken as fundamental to human experience, such as subject/object (or self/other), and active/passive. As you may be aware, Buddhist thought is much concerned with the error of the binary model, in so far as it prevents us from recognizing that all experience is actually a unity.

You describe sight as producing thought that is systematic and centrally ordered, which reminds me of Foucault's writing about the Panopticon, which, after all, is designed for the exercise of power and control. In contrast, your conception of the haptic introduces a degree of utopian thought into your work, and it is interesting to consider your objects as utopian propositions. Your comments on Franz West seem to point in the same direction, if one considers adjectives like clumsy, distorted, and truncated, and of course caricature itself, to be in many ways an antithesis to the qualities inherent in the Panopticon (note how quickly binary thinking reasserts itself!).

In writing about Possibly Being, a 2006 show you were in, Roger White talked about artists entertaining "ideas at the level of the potential rather than the actual." Do you agree with White's thought, and do you feel that this notion is associated with your own attraction to the haptic as a way to dissolve boundaries and the categories they create? Do your consider your work to be optimistic, or even utopian, and if so, how?

Fabienne: We see tactility as playing a subordinate role in our understanding of the world. Knowledge and power are often couched in metaphors derived from vision and optics: one has a point of view, perspective, things can be seen under a different light, overlooked, focused on, ideas can be clear, etc, etc. The haptic sense is associated with intuition or the unconscious, and relegated to the periphery of comprehension. At best, it is a complement to what we infer through sight. At worst, it is associated with regressive or infantile tendencies, the irrational, and the feminine. I pay a lot of attention to this undervalued sense in my work because it is unexplored, and relevant from a feminist standpoint.

So yes, as you sum up very well (and I love that you bring up Buddhism and Foucault - I had never thought of the Panopticon in relation to the haptic), there is a political, or philosophical, dimension to this. The way I understand Roger White's comment is that the pieces emerge from an arrangement of ideas, a complex of possibilities that don't quite exist outside of the work, a system that is plausible, that is within the world yet somehow independent of it. They say: "this could be, if..."; and that is what Will Villalongo's title for the show, "Possibly Being", also implies.

I often think of pieces or bodies of work as models, entities developed to try things out and learn about the outcomes and consequences of a way of making, doing, and thinking. They're models from which to compare and question prevailing norms or assumptions. That is what I like in Science-Fiction. The departure from realism permits the creation of a fictional world with its own laws and rules. This is not a place to escape to, or a shelter from reality. On the contrary: creating a different world makes everything in ours relative and debatable. In a way, the further it is from reality, the better it enables us to question reality..

However, I don't see my pieces as utopian. I don't think utopianism is able to embrace and include enough imperfection. There is something too sweeping, too finite, too solution-oriented in much utopian thought. My process has more to do with perception and understanding than any social arrangement erected with the general good as a goal. And the flawed, the marred have too much place in my work for it to be utopian. Failure in my work is not redeemed, it's just there. Utopia, I think, tries to accommodate or rehabilitate imperfection. And that strips it of its role of throwing a wrench in the works...

One example of the importance of imperfection is "Stupid Timid and Free". The piece has five forms emerging from the canvas - five fingers, or heads, or blobs. Who knows what they are: they're amorphous, mute, unidentified, dull. They're neither clearly ugly nor perky, and it's hard to know when they begin or end: there is no separation from the background. In fact, there is no figure-background relationship in the piece, only pressure (they're stretching, deforming the stripes). They are timid: unable to be aggressive because aggressivity presupposes some distinction between self and non-self, some sense of outward direction. They exist and they're so dumb, so inarticulate(d), so undefined. And this total vagueness, this total stupor, also makes them free.

You also ask if the pieces are optimistic. On one hand, I think that the pieces are too in the present to be optimistic or pessimistic: they're not concerned with the future. Yet a lot of the work is concerned with the positive potential implied in precarious, or unsettled states.

I would also add that my work, if not exactly optimistic, is very accepting of happiness. Pleasure and joy play a crucial part. I think I've gradually stopped equating happiness and naivety; anger and irony don't imply a more incisive intelligence. Recently I made a piece called "Arbitrary, Decorative and Untrustworthy", and it’s one of my favorite pieces. It has stripes, and garlands, and a bright, hot pink underbelly. My friend Christy Gast said it looked like someone's playground, and Brian says it is a birthday cake. My 8-year old niece calls it the Mushroom-Table. But my point is that it would never have happened if I hadn't come up with this title mid-course. The tongue in cheek title enabled me to totally indulge, to be completely loopy and decorative. It was a license to ignore, and question, the suspicion with which we regard decoration and pleasure.

Daniel: I have never shared in the critical hostility to beauty or pleasure in art, so I look forward to seeing "Arbitrary, Decorative and Untrustworthy" and your other new work.

Images Courtesy of the Artists

Interview by Daniel Gerwin

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Leslie Smith

Certain images are burned into our brains: a pyramid of naked men on their hands and knees, hoods over their heads, overseen by grinning U.S. soldiers; the infamous hooded man in a tattered sheet, standing balanced on a cardboard box with wires dangling from his fingers. These are among the visions left us by the United States’ activities in Abu Ghraib prison, during the early years of the Iraq War. Leslie Smith has absorbed the Abu Ghraib photographs into his imagination and created a body of work that both responds to those events and turns inward from their realities to a more inchoate place.

Some of Smith’s paintings directly reference the cruel inventions of American prison guards, such as “Standard Operating Procedure,” where the human pyramid makes an appearance. Others, like “Dead Weight,” feature what seem to be disembodied feet, reminiscent of the photos of one Iraqi prisoner’s corpse. Still other paintings seem to have originated with these images, but have become more unrecognizable, as in “Peter”, where Smith takes us closer to the realm of the ineffable, charting a course through an array of reactions to our obscene capacity for inflicting pain: stark recognition, efforts at comprehension, and finally, deep internalization.

Profile by Daniel Gerwin
Image: Standard Operating Procedure, Courtesy of the Artist

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