Can we let art just be art? Should we?

Tuesday Night Painting #33

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Hello painters,

This morning I'm listening to an excellent discussion from the crew at Glasstire, the Texas visual arts magazine. The three hosts go over the controversy regarding Philip Guston, the artist who was celebrated for his gestural abstract paintings before he renounced those and turned toward figuration.

Guston began painting in a figurative fashion, verging on the cartoonish. He painted satirical, self deprecating self portraits, as well as painting depictions of KKK members. These white-hooded Klansmen were rendered doing every day things, smoking cigarettes, riding in cars, discussing things in a conspiratorial manner. Some of the white robes were splattered with red paint, or blood.

Several major museums were scheduled to host Guston retrospectives this year, but postponed their plans. This kicked off a lot of discussion about a lot of different topics that spiraled off from one to the other: whether it was the right time to host a Guston retrospective and if it was right to postpone, if it was wrong to ask museums to think twice about displaying content that could offend or disturb their viewers, if it was wrong to treat viewers as if they couldn't distinguish between the valorization and a critique of a subject.

I enjoyed this discussion so much because it asks all the right questions. What does art do, what should it do, what does it need to do? Especially during times of heightened stress, of upheaval, of political and cultural turmoil. Can art be allowed to just be art? As always, I want to hear your thoughts, but also take just a half hour to listen to the discussion in this show.

Today in the newsletter I have a range of different links for you as usual. Take some time to scroll through and let me know what you think about this work!
Take a look up close and in depth at Amy Sillman's show at Gladstone Gallery. I believe I sent out a link to this show before but this review contains a lot of good images of the installation, PLUS a video walk through of the exhibit. Check it out here.
The artist Carmen Herrera is still going strong, recently unveiling a new mural in East Harlem. A group of students painted and installed this mural, which is based on Herrera's painting Diagonal, which she first created about 60 years ago.

The black and white lines form a bold, striking visual that contrast strongly with the surroundings. Herrera wanted this mural to be "something unexpected … she wanted it to be different and noticeable." And I think she achieved that successfully here.
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I came across this article titled 11 Tips for Awesome Abstract Photos and I have to admit I was skeptical that I'd be able to get anything out of listicle about art making. I was surprised though to find that this article really did have some good tips when it came to thinking about and looking for abstract inspiration out in the world.

As I've mentioned and will continue to mention ad nauseum, I've been teaching a class about how artists turn landscapes into abstract paintings. This article provides a good snapshot of what we've been talking about in class.
It lays out what to focus on when you're out of the house and searching for inspiration: where to look for textures and combinations of textures, how to think about color and pattern, look for unique or unusual angles and perspectives. And perhaps most importantly, how to keep things simple but still engaging. As the artist Alan Soffer puts it, "Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics."
This humble listicle reminded me of the artist Mary Lum, who I recommend you follow on Instagram. There, you can see Lum out and about in the world, documenting the shapes, textures, and colors she experiences and then returning home to experiment with them. She has a fantastic eye and an intriguing way of creating photo collages of her own abstract photos.

The way she notices shadows, lines, colors, and textures, then combines them together into new compositions, leads the viewer in some very interesting directions. Give it a shot yourself the next time you're out for a walk.
And here is your weekly reminder that this newsletter is free but not cheapI've been spending more and more hours each week researching and writing about new artists for me and you to lovingly gaze at.
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My friend and former classmate Gretchen Andrew has a fun and fascinating project going on display at the Monterey Museum of Art that involves tricking search engines into displaying her artwork online. When I was clicking around on her gallery's website I came across the work of abstract painter, Rachel de Joode, pictured above.

De Joode's show is titled Soft and displays some of the artist's large paintings from a series she calls Sloppy Therapy. These pieces are a combination of the digital and analog, in that the artist begins by approaching a blank canvas with no specific plan or direction in mind. The artist begins painting at random, then photographs her work and starts to zoom in, crop, and alter the work on the computer.
De Joode focuses on goopy textures, built up elements of paint that cast shadows onto the surface of the canvas. Rendered digitally, the shadows remain but the texture is entirely removed, deceiving the eye and tricking us into having a sensory experience of touch with a completely flat surface.

The idea of touch extends into the work in other ways: at times the artist photographs or scans her thumbs and fingers, which then are worked into the digital collages.
Read more about the artist's experiments at the gallery's site here, and see if you can spot any of the artist's fingers that are hidden throughout the work.
Finally, a story about how art can save the world. An elevated train in the Netherlands ran off the end of its tracks, but catastrophe was averted by public art. A 30-ft tall whale tail propped up the train and prevented it from crashing to the ground. Read into this story what you will, but things literally going off the rails is too on the nose for me at this moment.
That'll do it for this week, painters. This week for tunes I'm sending you links to some Japanese City Pop. It's upbeat and funky and sometimes veers/lurches in the direction of Yacht Rock. Hope you like it!

New J-Channel (livestream)
JPop City Compilation
80s Japanese City Pop

See you next time, and happy painting.
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
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