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Archive for June 2009

Photography Exhibition

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The Gail Gibson Gallery just opened a new exhibit of three photographers on June 4, 2009 through July 11, 2009.  I get tired of verbally interpreting paintings and photography and sometimes just like to enjoy them visually, which I did this past weekend.  There’s plenty to be said about the work on exhibit currently.  Give some thought to purchasing a few prints this month.  Below is the press release from the gallery.  Freese recommends.

View Master is an exhibit of three artists, LORI NIX, GRACE WESTON, and JONAH SAMSON.  The common denominator for these artists is in their masterful fabrication of intricate 3-dimensional sets, which are then photographed and later disassembled.  The resulting works examine highly imaginative worlds, which illustrate humor, decay, and sexuality.

LORI NIX builds tabletop dioramas in a spare bedroom of her Brooklyn apartment. In her newest body of work, The City, Lori’s sets have become incredibly detailed as she creates scenes from an imagined urban environment that have succumbed to the nature of decay. Taking months to assemble, these dioramas show evidence of human abandonment, and take on a life of their own as nature slowly reclaims them.  ChurchLaundromat, and Botanical Garden are the latest additions to the ongoing series. 


Lori Nix, "Laundramat", 2009

Lori Nix, "Laundromat", 2009

Lori Nix currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but spent most of her life in the rural Midwest.  Taking cues from the disaster movies of the 1970s and her memories of growing up in disaster-prone rural Kansas, Lori has blurred the line between truth and illusion with ‘in-house’ set ups and dioramas.  In her first series, Accidental Kansas, she recreated floods, fatalities, tornadoes, and insect infestations.  In the series Lost and Some Other Place, neighborhood sidewalks, city parks, and forays into the wilderness are reconstructed, playing out dark little dramas before the camera. 

Lori’s work has been exhibited nationally. Recent museum exhibitions include Picturing Eden, a traveling exhibition from the George Eastman House in New York, and Fresh: Contemporary Takes on Nature and Allegory at the International Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA. Lori’s honors include a 2004 Individual Artist Grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a 2001 Light Work Artist-in-Residence in Syracuse New York. Work by Lori Nix is included in the collections of the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA; Microsoft Corporation; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC; the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas City; Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA, Progressive Insurance, Cleveland, Ohio and Fidelity Insurance, Chicago, Illinois.

 GRACE WESTON is a Portland photographer who creates narrative imagery with staged vignettes that combine humor, wit and psychological tension.  The constructed sets, built from fabricated and found props, are whimsical stages that address personal and universal dilemmas, joys and fears.  With the use of human and animal figures, her characters act out an internalized drama that often remind the viewer of a long forgotten nightmare or daydream.


Grace Weston, "Current Affairs", 2006

Grace Weston’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the northwest. She was recently included in the 2008 Photography Biennial: Nine to Watch, Northwest Photography Biennial, at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, curated by Scott Wallin.  Additionally, Grace was a recipient of a 2006 Individual Artist Fellowship and a 2009 Artist Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission. She will use the later to travel to Madrid this summer for the upcoming Photo España’s Descubrimientos Madrid, a portfolio review and exhibition.  Grace is among the 70 photographers chosen from a field of 900 to participate in this June 2009 event.

 Photographs by Grace Weston are included in the collections of King County’s 4Culture Portable Works, Seattle, WA; the City of Seattle Portable Works, Seattle, WA; Portland Community College, Portland, OR; and University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and Erb Memorial Union, Eugene, OR.

JONAH SAMSON’s dark sense of humor and fascination with the macabre influences his recent body of work Pleasantville. His hand-assembled and painted sets of murder scenes and sexual encounters are born out of our cultures attraction to sex and violence as entertainment, and walk the line between humor and tragedy.  Works in this exhibit focus on the voyeuristic sex scenes; titles include Peeping Tom, Happy Trails, and F*cking.


Jonah Samson, "Fucking", 2006

Jonah Samson celebrates his first commercial gallery exhibit as a contributing artist to View Master, and will enjoy his first solo exhibit this fall at Chernoff Fine Art in Vancouver, BC.  Jonah has been writing, curating, collecting, and making art for over a decade. He is a contributor to the daily blog Cool Hunting, and his writing on photography has been included in several magazines across North America.  Jonah recently published a collection of his Polaroid images of couples kissing in a book called Kissing Pictures 1998-2008Tickl magazine will feature a spread of these playful and erotic Polaroids in their next issue due to be released in summer 2009.

Jonah currently lives in Vancouver, Canada with his French Bulldog named Beckett, and works as a family doctor focusing on inner-city health issues.  He is presently working on a new series of dioramic photographs called Noir, based on early 20th century crime scene photographs.


Written by Wes Freese

June 9, 2009 at 11:07 am


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Keeping my MoFA blog post in mind, I went to the University of Washington’s 2009 MFA show at the Henry Art Museum this past weekend, a couple of blocks from my home.  It was a nice little walk with my wife and we spied on the work of the UW’s MFA students’ work with a head of attitude.  To my surprise, the show was excellent, significantly better than the last few year exhibits of UW MFA students.  The highlight of the show was the paintings of Hugo Shi.  What can make a painting so revolutionary is the physicality of the painted surface, and Shi’s paintings we absolutely gorgeous to view in person.  Most MFA grads move on to obscurity after grad school, but Shi armed with a treasure trove of painting skill should continue on to greater heights.  If Hugo Shi sees this blog post, please contact me, I’d like to talk to you about your work.


Written by Wes Freese

June 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

Posted in Painting, Washington

Provisional Painting

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Wesley Freese, “Practicing”, Oil on Linen, 24″ X 24″

One of my favorite writers on art, and painting in particular, is Raphael Rubinstein.  His 2006 essay “A Quiet Crisis” was one of the most relevant contemporary articles on art and painting for me personally.  What has always seemed apparent in his writing is an impression that he truly does understand the process of painting, and that he’s not just interpreting the products of  visual (painting) culture from the outside in.  Earlier this month, Rubinstein published an essay in the May edition of Art in America on what he has coined “Provisional Painting“, trying to illuminate an as yet unclassified thematic approach in contemporary painting.  His essay moves the ball forward a bit in discussions concerning contemporary painting.

Rubinstein writes of his increasing awareness of provisionality in the practice of painting that “deliberately turn[s] away from ‘strong’ painting for something that seems to constantly risk inconsequence or collapse.”  The deliberate turning away might be due to a foundational skepticism inherent in the genealogy of modern art, which he says began with Cezanne.  This foundational skepticism is born of the modern struggle with the medium of painting, and in the case of younger artists, an attempt to “spurn the blandishments” of the art market.

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 2007

Christopher Wool, “Untitled”, 2007

Five contemporary painters are cited that illustrate Rubinstein’s provisionality.  Raoul De Keyser, “constantly asserts the impossibility of painting free of touch ups, mistakes, accidents, set on laying bare the seams, the second tries, the failures” (quoted from Jean-Claude Vergne); Albert Oehlen, whose “work, which manages to be at once antiseptic and messy, continues to draw great pictorial force from its abject awkwardness.”  Christopher Wool‘s “paradoxical pictures in which the artist seems to have obliterated a painting-in-progress and then presented this sum of erasures as the finished work.”  Mary Heilmann, whose paintings “[suggest] that treating painting as if it were ceramics, that is, as a medium free of weighty cultural expectations, is key to Heilmann’s art.”  Michael Krebber “appears to say, painting is what I do but let’s not get sentimental about it or waste unnecessary time or materials; this is all you’re getting for your money.  And yet Krebber’s disdain for painting could equally be interpreted as a sign of overvaluation of the medium”.

Rubinstein calls up reference to three other painters with recent exhibits as historical context for the five contemporary artists above.  Joan Miro, Martin Barre and Kimber Smith.  Miro’s work from 1927-1937 and “lack of finish, aggressively crude figuration, and extensive doodling and cancellation marks suggest a painter at war with his medium.”  Barre’s work “could well appear as anti-painting, whereas what [he] wanted to show, through the traces or points of impact in a clear surface, was what painting could be if disencumbered of object, color and form.”  Smith, as a second generation Abstract Expressionist in the most hostile decade to painting (1970’s), “splashed Matissean insouciance over the serious minded legacy of Abstract Expressionism” yet “does not fight at the fore, but neither does he fight at the rear; indeed, he fights not at all.” (Hal Foster, Artforum 1979)


Raoul de Keyser, “Untitled”, 2002

Rubinstein co-ops the argument of the “impossibility” of painting, explaining it as “a conviction that an earlier generation of artist has left only a few scraps to be cleaned up” or that “nothing could seem more presumptuous or inappropriate … than to set out to create a masterpiece.”  The entertainment of the impossibility has led many contemporary artists “to reject a sense of finish in their work, or to rely on acts of negation.”  Provisional painting is “the finished product disguised as preliminary stage” or “major painting masquerading as minor painting.”  Rubinstein concludes with a suggestion that the provisionality of contemporary painters’ works “is an index of the impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting.”

Is painting impossible?  This idea seems prescient only to a painter that is concerned with making a name for him or herself within the history of painting.  This is a big art market concern.  There are enumerable painters making traditional landscape, still life or other abstract paintings who either ignore or don’t know about the alleged “impossibility” of painting.  Painting is not impossible to them, it has consequence to them personally, and to his or her audience.  But the idea of impossibility in painting does reflect painting’s limited role in societies and culture.

In the 1970’s painting was “dead”, only to be reinvigorated by the post-modernists.  Painting was “pure” in the 1950’s which led to the celebration of monochromatic, dull and lifeless paintings by many artists in New York, and which I believe history will not be kind to in the long run.  Painting is not going to have the influence on society that television or photography or digital media has had and will continue to have, but it never did.  Show me the era, or the example, when the genre of painting cast such a big shadow on society.  It never existed!  Even before the inventions of other media in the 19th and 20th century, painting always had a limited role in society.  This ideology of “failure” and “impossibility” is more marketing pablum, and less about the practice of painting.  Nevertheless, fifty years from now you can bet that college art history books will have a section on painting after the millennium, perhaps entitled something like “Provisional Painting: The Impossibility of a Dead Medium” followed by the next chapter “The Resurrection of Painting”.

The thing I often object to are critic’s claims that traditional forms of painting are somehow obsolete, boring and/or not culturally relevant.  It makes me wonder if critics know what actually goes into creating a painting, or if they have the faculties to view a masterfully constructed painting.  I appreciate Rubinstein’s essay a great deal, and even though the concept of the impossibility in painting is widely accepted among critics, it certainly hasn’t infiltrated many painter’s actual practice of painting.  As I’ve written before, a painter whose work is excessively conceptual, like most of the artists listed in Rubenstein article, is usually masking an underlying lack of knowledge and skill as to how to paint.  It leads me to question: is provisionality really a euphemism for lack of skill or ability?


Albert Oehlen, “Gericht”, 2006

Written by Wes Freese

June 2, 2009 at 6:28 am

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