Quick Study

Reading suggestions

Matthew Wong, Starry Night, 2019, oil on canvas, 60 × 70 inches; 152.4 × 177.8 cm (Courtesy of Karma Gallery)

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Here is a selection of art articles and books I’ve been reading and pondering this week.

In The New Yorker, Raffi Khatchadourian wrote a moving profile of Matthew Wong, the young Canadian painter whom many of us knew through social media. On a visit to Edmonton, Khatchadourian met the artist’s mother, who took him to the bleak industrial park where Wong had a studio. Everything is exactly as Wong left it before taking his own life. The profile captures the artist’s obsession with painting and finding success. More broadly, it is a sobering story about the self-doubt and the uncertainty that come with the artist’s life, and how devastating it can be.

On Beautiful Eccentrics, Pablo Helguera published a piece that explores the directive he often gives to students to “do their research.” What does that mean exactly? He outlines four of the guiding principles. Following them may turn out to be more entertaining than expected. For instance, “dialogic research” simply involves staying abreast of developments via fieldwork – going to exhibitions and getting together with other people in the art world. “It is only when I am physically present where I can truly debrief with others (artists, curators, and other friends) to really get the back story of various issues, understand the socio-cultural or political context of some events, and sometimes – let’s face it – even get the vital gossip around certain subjects that would be impossible to capture virtually or in the public sphere,” Helguera writes. “This granular understanding of the art scene and its concerns becomes immensely helpful in producing work that might meaningfully engage with the local context.”

In case you’re inspired by Pablo’s essay and looking to do some fieldwork this weekend, I’ll be up in Hillsdale, NY, at LABspace this weekend talking to Pauline Decarmo about her work. LABspace is located at 2642 NY Route 23, Hillsdale NY. The conversation starts at 3 pm. Please feel free to join us.

Update: Here’s recording of the conversation.

On Art Spiel, Carol Diamond contributed a thoughtful review of “MOD,” a show I curated at Platform Project Space. Thank you, Carol, for taking such a discerning look at the work in the show. “Like Jazz solo riffs in a jam session, where each player improvises from a central composition, melody or theme, in ‘MOD’ each individual voice elaborates their own vision of color, shape, and space through a shared context of contemporary image-making. When I attended the opening night, the symbiotic relationship between viewers and images in the exhibition was palpable.” Platform Project Space, through May 21 at 20 Jay Street, #319, Fridays and Saturdays from 12-6 pm and by appointment.

Book report: For artists who are interested in memoirs, I highly recommend Edith Schloss’s The Loft Generation, From the de Koonings to Twombley Portraits and Sketches. When I went to Alexandre to see a show of Schloss’s paintings from the 1960s and 70s, I picked up the book and haven’t been able to put it down. For artists interested in the form of memoir, I recommend Siri Hustvedt’s novel Memories of the Future. Hustvedt takes a meta approach, writing about about S.H., a 60-something writer who finds the journal she kept when she first moved to NYC in the 1970s. Kirkus described it as a meditation on memory, selfhood and aging. I guarantee that artists will find it both funny and insightful.

And, finally, a shout-out to Barry Schwabsky, who wrote a compelling piece in Artforum about Rackstraw Downes’s drawings, which were on view last month at Betty Cuningham. Barry notes that the newer ones – drawings of the artist’s studio – feature a softer mark and a blurred mistiness that seem to afford comfort in uncertain times.

Rackstraw Downes, In the Artist’s Studio VI, 2020.

4 Comments

  1. Love your suggestions Sharon!

  2. Reading ‘The Loft Generation’ by Edith Schloss was an intense experience for me! Her truthful recounting of Chelsea loft living is brilliant and haunting. I lived in a Chelsea loft from 1978 until 2004 and Schloss captures the sights, sounds and smells of the neighborhood back then perfectly.

  3. Thank you Sharon for this great reading list!

  4. Thank you for the link to the article about Matthew Wong.

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