Contributed by Chunbum Park / Tony Robbin – a scientist and computer programmer as well as an artist – has spent decades pursuing fundamental questions of the cosmos and human existence. His visually enchanting work, currently on view in his solo exhibition “HyperSpace: Line, Color, Form, Pattern” at David Richard Gallery, appears non-representational. But if reality is not merely what is commonly observed at human scale but also what is observable at the quantum and cosmological levels, the distinction between representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational art can get murky.
Peter Halley: On the cusp
Contributed by Sharon Butler / Peter Halley’s catalogue raisonné needs to be updated. This month, a group of his paintings from 1980 and 1981 are on display in a gratifyingly revelatory two-gallery collaboration between Craig Starr on the Upper East Side and Karma in the East Village. Most of the paintings have rarely been shown, a few never, and I was delighted to see them, however belatedly.
Donna Dennis’ extraordinary invitation
Contributed by Iris Cushing / Donna Dennis is an artist of transition and transformation. Her architectural installations – which she pioneered in the 1960s and has continued to develop – often take the shape of transitory sites: subway stations, hotels, tourist cabins, and, in the case of her show “Ship/Dock/Three Houses and a Night Sky” at Private Public Gallery in Hudson, a loading dock. Like much of Dennis’ work, this installation draws on her experience and observation of vernacular spaces. It evokes industrial structures on the shore of Lake Superior, where the earth’s minerals are loaded on freighters by the ton and transported over water. This work marks the first time in Dennis’ expansive career that she’s combined three-dimensional architecture with painting. In merging the two media, she seamlessly creates a world for viewers to dream into.
Chakaia Booker’s lyrical muscle
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Making deeper sense of some abstract art past its initial visual impact can require extended consideration. Not so much Chakaia Booker’s sculpture, now on view in her solo show “Public Opinion” at David Nolan Gallery. Composed predominantly of exactingly configured pieces of black rubber tires along with wood and metal, the work immediately grips you like a confident advocate, calm and insistent. In Minimum Wage, a shovel entwined in flowing ribbons of rubber appears to struggle to do what it is supposed to do.
Ethel Schwabacher: Canon-adjacent?
Contributed by David Carrier / Revisionist arguments about who should be counted among the artistic elite, whether they be old masters or modernists, provide essential stimulus in the art world. They proceed in an established manner. Some reasonably influential figure contends that a significant artist has been unjustly excluded from a particular art canon. Commentaries are published and shows organized making the case for supplementing it. The recent amendments to the predominantly white male Abstract Expressionist elite have proven especially tricky, as issues of gender and race enter the picture. Does Alma Thomas belong? Norman Lewis? What about Ethel Schwabacher? With “Woman in Nature (Paintings from the 1950s)”, Berry and Campbell argue energetically, though not entirely convincingly, that she deserves a place.
Rita Ackermann’s alternative dimension
Contributed by Jeffrey Grunthaner / Currently on view at MASI Lugano in Lugano, Switzerland, Rita Ackermann’s solo show, “Hidden,” offers a rare melding of museum-oriented historicism with gallery-style directness. Occupying two cavernous rooms in the museum’s bottom floor, the exhibition comprises four bodies of work, ranging from early sketchbook collages prefiguring Ackermann’s iconic “nymph” paintings of the 1990s to more visceral canvases that explore erasure and disappearance. It culminates in three monumental paintings from Ackermann’s most recent series, War Drawings, which recall murals while also resembling magnified pages of an exploded notebook.
Ernst Caramelle: Look closely
Contributed by Marjorie Welish / As faithful to his subject as he is charming in craft, Ernst Caramelle focuses his attention on the plane—the plane as protagonist undergoing trials, trials to test the caliber of its planarity. In his solo show of work on paper at Peter Freeman, Caramelle renders the plane within an architectural space intimate enough to suggest a room, yet generic enough also to indicate an artist’s studio as a site of theory.
John Walker: Invisible dimensions
Contributed by Lisa Taliano / You need to be in front of a John Walker painting in order to get it. Its luminous qualities, the movement, scale, and touch of the brush carries us through the multiple layers and levels of reality shared and contained within and between us. The materiality of the paint works on our bodies directly. Seeing becomes feeling and sensing, understanding. Walker’s new work, now on view at Alexandre Gallery.
Tom McGlynn: Meta-minimalist-abstraction
Contributed by Adam Simon / At first glance, Tom McGlynn’s paintings, on display at his solo show “What Gives” at Rick Wester Fine Art, seem to be examples of minimalist abstraction, free of narrative, subject, or anything associative. His arrangements of rectangles of solid color on a monochromatic field evoke modernism’s utopian origins: Mondrian, Van Doesburg, De Stijl, Neo-plasticism, painting purged of anything that could be thought extraneous. For contemporary abstract painters, however, these basic shapes are historically weighted signifiers, no longer free of association. One cannot now make a geometric abstract painting without it also being a depiction of a geometric abstract painting. McGlynn is fully aware of this doubling. For him, it isn’t a quandary as much as a defining characteristic of his work. What is remarkable is that, out of such seemingly depleted soil, he can conjure such visual richness.
Conversation: Bob Szantyr and Valery Jung (정) Estabrook
Two Coats of Paint has had an eye on Bob Szantyr since discovering his compellingly quirky, absurd, anxiety-laden work several years ago during Bushwick Open Studios. This month, on the occasion of his first NYC solo, on view at Auxilliary Projects in Greenpoint through May 13, we invited Szantyr to have a conversation about his work with a fellow artist for publication. He enlisted multidisciplinary artist Valery Jung (정) Estabrook, one of the talented artists he met in the MFA Program at Brooklyn College.