Smart Painting in New Haven

The ten artists in “Smart Painting,” an upcoming exhibition at New Haven’s Artspace Gallery, are an inquisitive group, asking  a range of questions, which, at their most basic level, include: What should a painting look like? How should I paint it? What should I paint it on? Beginning with simple questions like these, each of the artists believes (more than most painters) that how they paint is as important as the image they paint.

[Image at top: Claire Grill, Fan, 2013, oil on linen, 10 x 11 inches. Courtesy of Soloway.]

 According to curator John O’Donnell:

The works answer these questions in three ways, first by referencing the limitations of their structures (�the frame�), second by exploiting the physicality of their surfaces (�the canvas�) and third by employing painterly strategies that enter the arena of the aesthetic realm (�the concept or idea�). Breaking down a painting into its anatomical parts��bones,� �flesh� and �brain,� the exhibition recasts these concrete terms more playfully.

The stake of this show is to recognize a painting that might appear lazy, hip or na�ve as a measured strategy or intelligent vehicle for challenging the tradition of what it means to be a painting. These artists trouble the notion that a painting must be a stoic representation of reality. Rather, they pursue casual abstraction as a method for depicting �reality� by questioning recognizable material, concepts and everyday forms.

Artist include Blake Shirley, Sharon Butler, Deborah Dancy, Zachary Keeting, Ben Piwowar, Jenn Dierdorf, Rob D. Campbell, Derek Leka, Clare Grill, and Tatiana Berg.

 Sharon Butler, Air, 2013; pigment and binder, pencil on linen tarp; 12 x 12 inches. Courtesy of Pocket Utopia.

Installation view of Tatiana Berg’s “Tent” paintings. Courtesy of Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden.
Deborah Dancy, Gates of Paradise, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Sears-Peyton.
Zachary Keeting, March (1), 2013, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 54 inches. Courtesy of Fred Giampietro.

Please join us for  the Curator’s Talk and Opening Reception on Friday, February 7, 5-8pm.

Smart Painting,” curated by John O’Donnell. Artspace, New Haven, CT. February 7 through March 22, 2014.

Note that on Tuesday, March 4, In addition to an artists’ talk for the show, Sharon Louden and Sharon Butler (me) will be holding a conversation and booksigning for Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, Essays by Forty Working Artists. Louden edited the book and I contributed an essay.


Related posts:
Thomas Miccelli: Questions for Casualists (2013)
Closing reception this week: Lost & Found (2009)


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  1. I think that "Smart Painting" would be more engaged in the question of "Why" paint rather than "How". The "Why"is not a question so much for the medium as it is for the artist. We all know that it is OK to paint, but why do individual artists make their specific work? If you can answer that question then I might see calling it "Smart Painting". As it stands now, too many painters (many more than you care to realize) are engaged in this very question of how to paint, unfortunately the results all end up looking very similar and no real new ground is being broken. In many instances, much of contemporary painting is drifting dangerously close to a state of self-indulgent and meaningless nonsense. Truly "Smart Painting" cannot just be about the "How" it has to answer the question"Why".

  2. Apparently painting still has the power to get under people's skin. Impressive.

  3. "drifting dangerously close to a state of self-indulgent and meaningless nonsense." And that's supposed to be bad, right ?

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