Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Picasso in West Chelsea

I recently took in a gem of a Pablo Picasso show in Chelsea. The show is hosted by Gagosian Gallery in a large annex space on West 21 Street; it includes his late paintings and prints, works he created when he was in his blessed 80’s and 90's, just before he died in 1973.

Wow, I'll be lucky if I'm painting at that age!  And to create such powerful and expressive work at the age of 90 years old would be a gift in itself.

John Richardson, Picasso's most renowned biographer, put the show together. Mr. Richardson's selections and curatorial layout of the show is collage-like.  It reveals the artist's personality, as well as emphasizing Picasso's central position in 20 Century art right up to his last breath.

The show is packed with paintings rich in colors, lines, and shadows.  They're characters in Picasso's vital, compelling theater of the absurd. They're playful, sexual, and full of life, ready to pop off the canvas. 

Picasso was also a master printmaker, and the show includes several etchings and engravings.  They demonstrate his incredible storytelling skills, displaying myths and fantasy with such richness that it is hard to believe the wonders of lines, shadows and shades can illustrate such beauty in the printed art. Only Dürer and Rembrandt were his equals.

As an artist and painter myself, I noticed the simplicity of his technique, which nonetheless achieves dynamic pictorial effects, especially in these later paintings. They're mostly portraits and wild fantasies of art, love and sensuality, the daydreams of a man growing closer to death. Their vitality and energy is thrilling.

Martin Kippenberger at the MoMA

This past Friday evening I went to the Museum of Modern Art with friends to see the Martin Kippenberger show. The show was billed as a comprehensive retrospective, but it was hardly that. It was more of mixed survey of his work, with a few gems. The MoMA's show is a scaled-down version of an earlier show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angles. 

Kippenberger, for me, is a mentor figure. He always offers something to latch on to as an artist. His work seems to move in and out of the stream of visual art over the last fifty years or so. His style and the haphazard way he went about creating work is what intrigues me. He is dead-on at times, and at other times way off the mark.  But his risk-taking took guts.

In 2003 I went to Karlsruhe Germany to see his retrospective exhibition at the Centre for Arts and Media (ZKM) Kurst (I had come across his work a few years earlier, in 2000). I believe it was the largest ever exhibit of his oeuvre. The only major work missing from the Karlsruhe’s show was his large-scale installation piece "The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s 'Amerika,” a piece made up of many different cast-off furniture pieces: desks, tables and chairs arranged in a large room on green Astroturf.  It was an extremely unconventional piece, and intrigued me, so I was disappointed that it was missing from the Karlsruhe show.  Fortunately, "The Happy End" makes an appearance in the MOMA’s show; it's the centerpiece, displayed prominently at the entrance to the museum's galleries. 

I like Kippenberger's ideas about art. He seems to break the rules, while keeping the rules of art in mind. It may be an illusion, which is what makes his works all the more interesting.  I also like his sense of color and how he used the geometry of the picture plane to structure the senseless space in his pictures. This senseless space is undefined, yet has a natural feeling of ‘grounding’ the picture. I also think his work involves a ‘risk factor,’ the idea that art can be anything the artist feels, thinks, observes, or wants, however obvious or absurd. He had--and he gives to me--a sense of freedom to create, with out the baggage of the history of art.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New West Chelsea Arts studio

I thought I'd start off the Art Blog with photos of my new West Chelsea Arts building studio. I moved into the new studio on April 1st. It's much larger than my previous Tribeca studio. It allows me to work on several paintings and projects at once. New work is flowing already. I started a new series of paintings which I am very excited about. The work is about opening up painting and using large-format digital images of found prints. In the paintings, I rework the original found images. I paint on them with gouache, and paint over the printed images and cover parts in the photos, blocking them out. This process inspired a large work entitled "24 Panel Painting." The new studio paintings are the start of an exploration.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New York artist Scotto Mycklebust launches his Art Blog

I'm launching my Art Blog to preview current paintings, artworks, and works-in-progress. It will host an ongoing discussion about my experiences as an artist living and working in New York City. I also plan to publish comments on contemporary issues and events in art and culture, as well as contemporary life in general.