Monday, February 25, 2008

Looking at Artists Again

I'm going to try this again. Earlier this evening, I got out my current issue of Art in America magazine and went through it, commenting on the various artists who caught my eye. Unfortunately, when I hit the "publish" button, Blogger dumped the whole thing. An hour's worth of exceptionally creative and absolutely brilliant art critique was lost forever. Well, okay, that's overstating things a tiny bit, but you get the idea. I was on a roll and now it's lost.

To set the stage: when I first go through the magazine, I flag pages where there's some interesting artwork. Later I'll go look up the artists on the internet to see more of their work. Sometimes I find some really great artists (see the list "Artists I Like" on the right). Other times the initial positive impression doesn't last. That's life, isn't it?

I wrote about a bunch of artists earlier this evening, but in this recreation of the Lost Blog Post, I'll only talk about three.

David Shevlino had a full-page ad for his show at DFN Gallery in New York. David's work is a soft abstraction on a photo image. He's much more concerned with the image's formal elements of color, shape, line, tone, and composition than with the image's subject matter. This image, for example, isn't really about cars at dusk (although that's the painting's title). It's about the color of the background, the lines, the geometric elements, and the spots of bright color. It has much more to do with Piet Mondrian than with landscapes. This approach carries over into his work with figures, too. They are not specific individuals, they're interesting human shapes in a geometric setting. It looks like David can really paint: I like the quality that I see, he pays attention to edges and how one layer of paint sits on top of another layer. His approach is very different from mine. I take my cue more from Lucien Freud and Alice Neel ... not that I'm in their class, but I need my people and places to be specific and recognizable. David doesn't give a hoot about that, which makes it very interesting and enjoyable for me to look at his work.

Kim Cogan had a full-page ad for his show at Gallery Henoch in New York. His approach is, on the surface, very similar to Shevlino's. Kim paints cityscapes, but they're very bleak and devoid of human presence. It's as if they came from one of those disaster movies where all the people have died but left their lights on. His drawing is superb and his compositions very dramatic, with sharp light/dark contrasts and strong diagonals. Unlike Shevlino's works, Kim's scenes are very specific locations. I really like the feelings I get from the images. As an artist, I'm always interested in process, and Kim is both brave and courteous enough to have a succession of still images showing the development of one of his paintings. It didn't develop at all like I'd have thought, and not at all like I would have done it ... which is probably why he's in Gallery Henoch and I'm not. Kim is a good painter. Go take a look.

The third artist was Robert Selwyn, who was featured in a review of his show at DFN Gallery (yes, the same gallery I mentioned above). The magazine had an image of a suburban house distorted as if seen through water. The web site showed that the paintings were of two very different groups. One group consisted of these suburban houses seen through water, and the other was paintings apparently of a still from a TV newscast. Frankly, once I looked through them all, I was disappointed. With the houses, it seemed as if he'd found an interesting gimmick and then repeated it over and over. I can see one or two interesting conceptual foundations for these: the idea that the houses aren't really as perfect as they seem on the outside, or with the current mortgage crisis, that they're on shaky ground. But saying the same thing six times was overkill. With the newscasters, they were all the same, too: female newscaster staring straight at you, mouth partly open while she's saying something, with something disastrous happening on the screen behind her. Again, saying it once might be interesting; saying it six times isn't.

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