Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / There’s a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, annoyed by the knowing ellipticality of a New Yorker cartoon caption, marches into the august magazine’s offices and confronts the editor – portrayed to preppy-geek perfection by the late Edward Herrmann – about its meaning. After offering several generic, pretentious, and abjectly unconvincing interpretations, he admits that he has no idea what the hell the caption is supposed to mean. Jeff Gabel – whose elaborately narrated drawings and paintings, a few site-specific, are presently on display in a solo at Spencer Brownstone Gallery on the Lower East Side and a group show at Jennifer Baahng Gallery on the Upper East Side – runs no such risk, abjuring obscure glibness for mordantly wise, sourly penetrating bloviation.
For Gabel, a serious wiseacre, subtext is almost everything. It’s easy to imagine a Gabel piece that deconstructs the New Yorker editor’s bullshit. As the archly verbose title of the show – “selective report of details of a largely fabricated memory of the porous history of sporadic reflection and observation efforts with no urgency,” cadged from alternative captions for one of the drawings – suggests, Gabel weaponizes stream-of-consciousness and interior logorrhea with paradoxically incisive humor.
In this exhibition, the few drawings or paintings that have no long narrative accompaniment – just conventional titles – are outliers. But in the group show that includes earlier drawings at Jennifer Baahng Gallery, Gabel employs shorter captions. While in that sense most are more in line with The New Yorker’s form, they remain expansive in substance, sometimes encapsulating entire psychological biographies. In one particularly droll one, a drawing of a man’s face, his expression quizzical but quite decipherably morphing into pleasure and relief, gets this caption: “A fucker right when someone’s asking him what kind of liquor he wants to drink at a dinner get-together where he doesn’t know most people there + he thought there wasn’t going to be any booze because he didn’t see any since he got there.“
Like a grunge musician, Gabel is susceptible to sentimentalism and nostalgia and the myth of the canon but hates himself for it; his central recurring character is “some fucker.” As he himself meta-observes, many of the thoughts he has and then invalidates are “the stuff of rock songs and, if not for the lack of Ph.D.-level aesthetics words, of artists’ statements.” If he’s not an outsider artist – he did get an MFA at Pratt – he’s pressing his nose up to the window. And part of at least one caption really would make excellent lyrics for some tune emerging from the Seattle area:
I got in a car, rode with evil Evil evil Lookin at town ignorin the statues Jumped in back and Made us sandwich Made me afraid so i missed half of livin, Livin livin Made me believe in the way life’s done Believed my pride proved in history books And people excite me today lost their value value Road got wider, sun scorched landscape Life got skinny, Skinny skinny I asked questions, evil said it Said im hedging, Hedging hedging Waiting for my angle cushion my impact Said i don’t empathy, short term sympathy Hang my creds on a fluffy collar Life as shallow as the edge of a dollar Wish i could troll all, Wish i could sequence Can’t do both em it’s one or the other Spend half a lifetime choosin which one Loose half a life on a choice of a branch That ain’t got branches, aint got choices Ain’t got nothing but voices Tellin you shit about you ain’t hurt.
Most of his pieces, however, incorporate straight prose. The cascading words of uncannily coherent run-on sentences are never superfluous because they build emotional momentum that intensifies the many moments of recognition to be had in sampling Gabel’s work, informed by abundant literary and broader cultural allusions and sometimes even cast in German lest anyone think him a poseur or a dilettante, though of course we all are to some degree even if some of us myself included are loath to concede the point… (Maybe I could go on, but I can’t presume to compete with Gabel.) It’s crucial to each piece that the drawing or painting paired with the caption is invariably trenchant, distilling the essence of the narrative and getting the viewer to “That’s it!”
One painting in which these two key virtues – discursive existential needling and succinct visual evocation – come together with unusual seamlessness and density is the one whose caption begins “Outside the chalet over near the slope waiting for the second coming…” (it totals 110 words). Here, flanked by a gaggle of roughly painted, dumbly transfixed fuckers on a ski slope, Gabel riffs caustically on the atavistic strain of knowing aristocratic aloofness that even contemporary vacationers seek in vain to harness, drawn from the Roger Moore-vintage Bond flicks he watched in his youth that made him covetous and antsy but never delivered.
The core quality of Gabel’s work seems to be the absurdity that stems from the apparent futility of the quest for human dignity. One of his shorter captions nicely captures this sardonic idea: “Row of people sitting in a small theater watching a play about a young girl that lives through an unforgiving tragedy and then ends up with people that saved her but also mentally abuse her until she goes crazy.” Is it concern or is it schadenfreude? Veering towards Roz Chast and beyond to Robert Crumb, he’s a kindred spirit of the cringe comedian. Like a loquacious Beckett, smoldering with grim confidence and impervious to chastisement – he won’t get any here – Gabel taps into a rich vein of scornful, even vindictive, ennui, daring us to admit that, let’s face it, we feel it, too.
“Pitches & Scripts,” with R.C. Baker, Sharon Butler, Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht, Jeff Gabel, Zhang Hongtu, Janet Taylor Pickett. Jennifer Baahng Gallery, 790 Madison Avenue, New York, NY. Through March 4, 2023.
Even though making art is often an experience that happens in the solitude of one's studio, it rarely occurs in a vacuum. Artists rely on each other for support, reinforcement, inspiration, and challenge, forming communities to avoid feeling like fish out of water in this world. Tim Gowan was one of those artists who cherished […]
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Surprise: #PatriciaTreib solo on view in Stockholm @galerie_nordenhake 💥 beautiful paintings, elegantly installed ❤️
Swedish-born and UK-based, artist, activist, writer and eco-feminist Monica Sjöö (31 December 1938 - 8 August 2005) fought for freedom from oppression, but especially for women’s rights. “THE GREAT COSMIC MOTHER” @modernamuseet is her first retrospective. Swipe for the image that was considered blasphemous and obscene in the 1970s.
Rejecting abstract art as a Western male privilege, she asked: “How does one communicate women’s strength, struggle, rising up from oppression, blood, childbirth, sexuality – in stripes and triangles?”
In the studio of Prince Eugen Napoleon Nicolaus of Sweden and Norway, Duke of Närke (1 August 1865 – 17 August 1947) was a Swedish painter, art collector, and patron of artists. Swipe through for a wide angle of his attic studio. Yes, it has a water view :) #stockholmartist #Waldemarsudde #Djurgården #princeeugen #landscapepainting
Save the date: Two Coats of Paint is hosting our first Hudson Valley Gallery Crawl on Oct 14 and 15. 💥 To kick off the weekend, we`re organizing a live conversation on the evening of Friday, October 13, moderated by Two Coats of Paint publisher @sharon_butler / Details to come ✍️
Participating galleries include: Analog Diary Art Sales & Research Artport Kingston Buster Levi Collar Works D’Arcy Simpson Art Works Susan Eley Fine Art Elijah Wheat Showroom Front Room Gallery Galerie Gris Garage Gallery Garrison Art Center Geary Joyce Goldstein Gallery Alexander Gray Associates Carrie Haddad Gallery Hudson Hall LABspace Lightforms Art Center Lockwood Gallery Mother Gallery Opalka Gallery Private Public Gallery The Re Institute SEPTEMBER Pamela Salisbury Gallery Turley Gallery Visitor Center Woodstock Artists Association & Museum
Latest post, link in profile / Ed Ruscha’s retro spective / Contributed by Laurie Fendrich / The work of the Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha is often referred to as a West Coast version of Pop Art. The implication, of course, is that since it didn’t come out of New York, it must be inferior. His retrospective “Now Then,” his first at the Museum of Modern Art and first in New York since 1983, contains over 200 works from 1958 to the present…. Despite its outward similarity to conceptual art and New York Pop Art, Ruscha’s work feels decidedly different. Link in profile
Image: Ed Ruscha, The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1965-68, oil on canvas, 135.89 x 339.09 cm
New post, link in profile / Selected Paintings from SPRING/BREAK NYC 2023 / Contributed by Fay Sanders and Bob Szyantyr / In a shift befitting this year’s theme, !WILD CARD!, the Spring/Break Art Show departs from its past trajectory of more-and-bigger spectacle, year after year. Building on the “Secret Show” of this past spring, which returned to the Old School where the fair began, the organizers asked artists for this year’s show at 625 Madison to revisit past themes with a mix of nostalgia, homage, and cheekiness. Link in profile
Image: Jackson Hill (detail) / Booth 1018 “Backyards” curated by Todd Cramer. Featuring artists Todd Cramer + Jackson Hill + Guillermo Amat. Theme: Fact and Fiction (2019)
When I got the email from @alexandregallery yesterday, announcing that they were presenting a clutch of #lorenmaciver paintings @independent_hq, I scrambled for a press ticket to the preview so I could see the work one more time before it passed into private hands. The fair, located on the waterfront next to the Staten Island Ferry, was nothing if not elegant, and the MacIvers didn’t disappoint. Here are details of a MacIver and some other pieces that caught my eye. Then I walked over to Pier 11 and took the ferry back to the studio in Dumbo. Great morning 💥Sorry not to have images of the Sigmar Polke photographs — knockout @sieshoeke — Kenwyn Critchlow paintings @dianerosenstein, the Mary Dill Henry paintings and notes @hauserwirth, Emilio Cruz @corbettvsdempsey, and others. If you can’t make it to the fair, go look them up. Tags to come, but feel free to identify in the comments.