Saturday, August 29, 2009

A couple of years ago at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, I had the chance to see an exhibition by German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Each image was a small, black and white image of a building structure. Sometimes these structures were arranged in a grid, showing each side of a single building, or several buildings of a similar type. The viewing invited comparison between what the artists consider "typologies" of Western European industrial and residential structures. The exhibition was paired with a large collection of portrait photographs by August Sander, who documented various individuals who typified various subcultures. After viewing Sander's traditional portraits of people, I felt that the Becher exhibition of building structures was also I kind of portraiture.

From the Getty Center website:
"For nearly 50 years, Bernd and Hilla Becher photographed the industrial architecture of western Europe. Using a large-format camera loaded with five-by-seven-inch sheet film, they created an archive of the basic forms that inform our understanding of the industrial era. Rendered with absolute precision in the palette of cool grays characteristic of medium-contrast gelatin silver prints, each structure is centered against a cloudless sky, filling the picture frame. Their choice to limit decisions, effectively employing a "nonstyle"—which, ironically, became an immediately recognizable style—demonstrates the role the Bechers' work has played in bridging the gap between photography as document and photography as art in the second half of the 20th century."

Online book of Becher work

Bernd and Hilla Becher, large, steel storage tank, circa 1960s, silver gelatin print

Bernd and Hilla Becher, "Framework houses, area", collection Ydessa Hendeles, Art Foundation, 1989,Tipologie, Biennale de Venise, 1990.

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Water Towers, France and Germany, German, 1968 - 1972, Gelatin silver prints

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Convergence, by Benjamin Edwards

Benjamin Edwards is a painter grappling with the capitalist/consumerist culture related to urban/suburban sprawl. His paintings are dense, resulting from an obsessive build-up of images, forms, textures, shapes and colors lifted from the commercial milieu he sees around him. The impact is a capsizing of our senses - as if the entirety of consumer visual stimuli has been gathered into a single rectangle - Like drinking from a fire hose.

Here is a statement from one of his writings where he is reflecting on the recent downturn in the economy, as symbolized by the closing of the Circuit City stores:

"Lately it’s occurred to me that the world my paintings have been about all these years is crashing down before our very eyes. If my work was ahead of the curve over the last ten years, visualizing capitalism and consumerism on steroids, now it seems that things have passed me by. Whatever paintings I make now necessarily look back on this era that is ending rather than anticipating something to come. The world as I have always known it, one of growth and sprawl, technological acceleration and anxiety, ever-increasing complexity and capitalist frenzy driven to unseen, dizzying heights—that world has been turned on its head. When I was making Convergence, I wanted to express a feeling that energy and speed were so intense that a flurry of fragments was momentarily held aloft. Now we see that when the consumption stops, it’s all just an illusion." - Benjamin Edwards, Elegy (Nov.19, 2008)

Benjamin Edwards online

Below this image are three detail shots to give you an idea of the close up density Edwards creates...

Convergence, 2000-2001
Acrylic, texture media, foam and spray paint on canvas
97" x 145"

Convergence (detail image)

Convergence (detail image)

Convergence (detail image)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

2 by Travis Shaffer

These photos are by a young artist just graduating from the University of Kentucky. We have two of his pieces included in an upcoming exhibition at Manifest Gallery, where I am assistant director ( Since 2008, Shaffer has been taking aerial photographs of various land uses typically associated with suburbia. These two images are a part of a project he calls "Eleven Megachurches," the rest of which can be seen at the link below.

Travis Shaffer online

Central Christian Church, Henderson, NV
eleven megachurches
40" x 40" (Edition of 7) Chromgentic Prints

Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL
eleven megachurches
40" x 40" (Edition of 7) Chromgentic Prints

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

3 by John Dubrow

John Dubrow is a New York artist who primarily paints city "roofscapes" and portraits. His paintings are restrained in their description of form. Areas flatten into abstraction, but never to the point that representation is lost. I find his paintings to be direct, simple, and honest.

Self-Portrait, 2007
Oil on linen
48 x 40"

From the Studio, Brooklyn, 2001-2006
Oil on linen
68 x 95"

Union Square II, 2005-2007
Oil on linen
58 x 63"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two by Emil Robinson

Emil Robinson is a Cincinnati painter and a good friend of mine. We've had the chance to co-exhibit a couple of times now, which is a real honor. One of the things I really appreciate about Emil is that he deeply believes in painting. In contemporary art, painting (especially realist painting) has been under attack for some time now as an art form that has had it's day and must now be buried away in old museums. It's refreshing to know someone who side-steps this critique and holds fast to the importance of painting.

Emil Robinson online

"Waterbowl" by Emil Robinson (2007)
20" x 16" - Oil on panel

"Showered" by Emil Robinson (2007)
30" x 28" - Oil on panel

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Denis Ichitovkin is a contemporary Russian realist painter. I have not been able to find many of his paintings online, but what I have found are a powerful testament to his keen observational skills and his confidence in the poetry of mundane places. I am particularly impressed with his compositional structures - he manages to create ordinary spaces that we understand easily, yet they are abstracted by his emphasis upon the geometric division of the canvas.

Denis Ichitovkin online

"Smoking Place"
Oil on canvas
80x69 cm

"Visiting Grandmother"
Oil on canvas
83x72 cm

"Smoking Place. Stairs"
Oil on canvas
84x57 cm

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Encounter (2008), by Paul Fenniak

Paul Fenniak is a Canadian painter who creates compelling narrative portraiture. By narrative, I mean that even his more straightforward portraits seem to operate as voyeuristic opportunities to observe a person paused within their personal story. In other instances, as in the image below, the narrative is in full-swing, although ambiguous. His characters strike me as lonely, down-a-notch in life, and sometimes "caught" doing some of the strange things humans do when they believe they are alone (like standing on a bed to listen through the wall to the next room).

From the artist bio written by the gallery that represents his work:

"Paul Fenniak paints detailed psychological portraits and figures in settings with implied action. Deep in thought, Fenniak’s subjects are contemporary in setting but reminiscent of studied portraits that follow the tradition of [earlier figurative artists]. Paul Fenniak’s paintings have luminous surfaces and compelling images that offer a combination of disquiet, uncertainty, urgency, calm, and spirituality. His painting style contains a contrast of inner light with his attention to detail, texture and atmosphere." (From the Forum Gallery website)

Paul Fenniak online

Paul Fenniak
Encounter (2008-09)
Oil on canvas
60" x 48"