Friday, February 12, 2016

A short story on The Fountain of Youth

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Fountain of Youth, 1546

Coming across this painting online a couple days ago, my breath caught in my throat, transported to a vivid and detailed memory I hadn't accessed in many years.  It takes me back to one moment in time the way an unexpected Tracy Chapman song on the radio rips me back to my childhood bedroom with all the angst and melodrama, I can nearly feel the spongy pressure from those little headphones.

Luckily the painting takes me to a much better place, and even though I was younger, probably about 10, it takes me back to much more complex feelings than those Chapman years.  Rarely, anymore, do I remember something from that pre-middle school era that I haven't gone over many times in my memory since...
My brother and I were to be watched by my cousin who was probably in her early twenties at that point.  She had just moved into a tiny trinity apartment in queen village, a Philadelphia neighborhood with colonial brick buildings and charming corner restaurants-- not without an edge though, a tattoo shop with gothic early 90s vibes-- I remember walking down a narrow street just as the sky was deepening into navy and feeling awe.  I'm guessing our mom was with us but curiously absent in my recollection, I remember being absorbed in the idea that I was independent and old and this was cool.  We made our way through a back alley garden just as the twinkling lights from her neighbors homes were turning on and the cold was becoming something to notice.  Inside her door, and only four more steps to the stairs, a miniature kitchen with worn wood floors held the sides of the room.  That feeling of awe that started on the way over now completely enveloped me, with every inhale I felt drunk on the smell of spaghetti sauce.  Heather was amazing, with dyed red hair and an ankle tatoo, some kind of bohemian outfit with no conventional beginning or end.  She talked to us like we were no big deal, no fussing as most adults did.  She kept with the script that we were mature and I imagined that was how she greeted friends.  Part of me was uneasy in this new role, my eyes fixed on a row of succulent plants on the windowsill, but that bit of fear was electrifying.  She told us to go all the way upstairs.  As we climbed the corkscrew steel steps we hit a landing that was her bedroom.  An unmade bed without boxspring sat oddly low on the ground, we hurried up the next turn.  On the top floor we found a cozy attic space.  Warm red from the exposed brick wall and soft carpet, it was the antidote to the cold, dark blue out the glass sliding door.  We could look out and see the garden and rooftops, perched and wide-eyed like little birds.  Everything was in this room, the dark made it so.  Above the futon hung a crappy poster reproduction of the Fountain of Youth.  I stared at it, I loved it.  Everything about the way I was feeling was reflected in the painting.  It was dangerous with its nude people but it was joyous, it was warm in its color and sensousness, it was secretive in its unfolding narrative.  We ate spaghetti and I looked at that painting for what feels like hours.  It was safe to look there, but it was also cool to discuss with Heather, it was echoing all things internal, externally.

Only now, can this thing be analyzed, but I don't want to overthink it or rationalize the importance.  Like playing a tape too many times erases the vividness of color.  All I can say is to harness that feeling of that night into a painting, is to make a masterpiece.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

'Spaghetti for Breakfast' Installation Images



A c

 A couple installation shots of my solo show which just ended.  For info on individual pieces and detail images, here is the link:

So many thanks to those who stopped in during the show.  It still feels pretty fresh in my mind but the brief reflection I have had, I feel good.  The work felt much more like what I am after than my last show here in 2013.  I thought it was hung beautifully and noticed quite a few things new to me about my own work, which seems meaningful and a good way to move into a new body of work.  More on these thoughts later...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Brooklyn and Phila Painting Shows Upcoming

Brenda Goodman, “Self Portrait 4” (1994), diptych, oil on wood

So many good shows coming in February!  I really hope there isn't snow like we just had next Friday, February 5th when so many of these are opening.  To start with, in Philly here are a few.  (pictured above)

Tiger Strikes Asteroid 
319A North 11th Street #2H
Trembling Halves
Brenda Goodman and Kate Gilmore
Curated by Lauren Britton and Zachary Keeting
February 5 – February 28, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, February 5, 6 --10pm

"PHILADELPHIA, PA–Tiger Strikes Asteroid is pleased to present a multi-generational show of video and paintings curated by Lauren Britton and Zachary Keeting. Please join us for our February exhibition Trembling Halves featuring the work of Brenda Goodman and Kate Gilmore..."

Great curators, one of my favorite contemporary painters.  Can not believe her paintings which were just on view in a living retrospective in Detroit will be here in what's likely to be a really interesting juxtaposition with Kate Gilmore's video work.  I love when artists continue to take on projects that are different and not just about a bigger venue. 

Sarah Gamble: Vibraspace
Jennifer Levonian: Shake Out Your Cloth

Another really interesting still painter/animated video combination will be at Fleisher-Ollman.  Two of my favorite Philadelphia makers are showing together:

Fleisher/Ollman Gallery
1216 Arch Street, 5A

Sarah Gamble and Jennifer Levonian
February 5 – March 26, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, February 5, 6–8pm

"Fleisher/Ollman is pleased to announce two solo exhibitions featuring new work by Sarah Gamble and Jennifer Levonian. While different conceptually and in their chosen media, the artists make for an interesting pairing as they each explore the bookends of the human psyche. If Gamble plumbs the unconscious realm of dreams and self-created mythological worlds occupied by a range of strange characters and foreboding landscapes, Levonian delves into the quotidian where the mundane is transformed into the fantastical, or at the very least, the hilarious..."

 Philippa Beardsley, 2015, Meeting, Acrylic on Panel
Philippa Beardsley, Meeting, Acrylic on Panel, 23" x 29.5", 2015 - See more at:
Philippa Beardsley, Meeting, Acrylic on Panel, 23" x 29.5", 2015 - See more at:
 A friend and good painter in her own right, Leigh Werrell, is now using her discerning eye to curate what looks like a dream of a show of 11 artists:

Snyderman-Works Galleries
303 Cherry Street
Personal Space 
February 5  - February 26, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, February 5, 5:30 - 9pm
"The space that we find most consistently present is that which we carry with us, serving as a buffer between ourselves and other spaces, people and objects. This bubble changes in size, shape, and texture depending on how we relate to what is around us. Our perception of our surroundings depends on how we view ourselves and correspondingly, we alter the locations we occupy in a similar manner. Through their individual understanding of place, the artists in this exhibit have created introspective self-portraits by considering personally important locations, interpretations of their own place in an environment, and how the memory, cultural significance, or content of a space can change its meaning."

Philippa Beardsley
Amanda Bush
Matt Colaizzo
Virginia Fleming
Julian Kreimer
SaraNoa Mark
Erin Murray
Matt R. Phillips
Giordanne Salley
Stuart Shils
Tiffany Tate

Ken Kewley, Bouquet I, acrylic on panel, 24 x 18 inches

127 S 16th Street
Ken Kewley
New Paintings
February 3 - February 26, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, February 5, 5 - 7 pm

 And in Brooklyn...

Ginny Casey, Droopy Vase, oil on canvas, 2016

What's likely to be a really revelatory solo show of painter Ginny Casey, is happening at 106 Green, a gallery founded by really unbelievably excellent painters Holly Coulis and Ridley Howard.  A show I must figure out how/when to get to see in person.  Her work is so beautiful in the flesh.

104 Green St, Brooklyn
Ginny Casey
Ghost Maker
January 24 - February 22, 2016
Opening: Saturday, January 30, 6-8pm

"Ginny Casey’s paintings play with space, color, and the idea of making. In her staged scenes, floating, disembodied hands hide under vessels, shape and tickle clay, break things, hang around. They blend in, taking on hues from their environment. The shifting, soft-edged vessels they interact with are as alive as the hands. We are invited into a curious world of clay, formed/unformed, broken, painted. This malleable material might even be responsible for the creation of its own surroundings. The paintings are a compelling puzzle, sometimes funny and sometimes sad."

Installation shot of The Swerve, Ortega y Gasset Projects (Sarah Peters, foreground, Caroline Chandler, right)

Finally, a group show that has so many interesting and favorite contemporary makers of mine.  I love the work of co-curator Jennifer Coates and the 3-dimensional work selected feels so strong and related to painting.  I really like when painters curate shows with multiple mediums.

363 3rd Avenue, Ground Fl
The Swerve
January 24 -- February 21, 2016
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 24, 4-6pm 

"The title for the exhibition is based upon a book of the same name by Stephen Greenblatt, which touches on ancient atomistic theory, wherein atoms normally falling straight through a void are sometimes subject to a clinamen — a slight, unpredictable change. It is in this interruption of regularity where the action lies. According to Lucretius, if atoms were not in the habit of swerving, “nature would never have produced anything.” Taking this as a point of departure, The Swerve presents contemporary paintings and sculptures that explore the haptic and conceptual approaches to pattern: how pattern and its rupture are employed in service of meaning."

On view in the main gallery, Lauren Frances Adams and Jennifer Coates 
co-curate The Swerve, featuring works by:
Julia Bland
Caroline Wells Chandler
Glenn Goldberg
Bill Komoski
Joyce Kozloff
Bruce Pearson
Sarah Peters
James Siena
Barbara Takenaga

Gonna brave the cold and literally climb over mountains of snow in the street (which may be cars? unsure at this point) to get to these upcoming shows which are sure to be worth it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Art Resolution and Ancient Andes Artworks

Feather Hat, Coast Tiahuanaco, Brooklyn Museum

I found this book in my husband's late grandmother's apartment called Ancient Arts of the Andes, published by MOMA in 1954.  As I paged through it I thought, wait, what year is this from??  It is not dated but all examples here are estimated between 400 - 1000 AD.  Unbelievable how much of this drawing language has worked back into the contemporary world.  

Double-spout vessel, Nazca, Carlebach Gallery, New York

Bowl decorated wtih fisherman and nets, Nazca, Carlebach Gallery, New York

Stirrup-spout jar, Mochica, University Museum, Philadelphia

I'm guessing the one above is at Penn's museum, I think I'll try to go see if it is on view or anything similar.

I listened recently to a Sporkful episode.  Its a podcast about a guy who talks about food like whether "it is wrong to eat string cheese without peeling it into strings?" (my answer: yes)  But he did an episode on the new year and how he tries to make a food resolution.  Last year's was to eat more MSG, this year's is to bake a lot of bread from scratch.  

So with that in mind I think I'll start the tradition too, regarding art.  I think last year's, although unrecognized, was to learn how to make good frames and I think I succeeded.  I think this year's will be to look at much more work from ancient eras and also more non-western work.  So ancient non-western wings of museums.  Recently, whenever I am in these spaces by accident or stumble upon a book like this my mind is blown and I get so much of that feeling of needing to get to the studio.  So now I am formally recognizing that fact and making it my art resolution of 2016. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

'Spaghetti for Breakfast' Press Release

Below is the press release from Gross McCleaf for my show opening this Friday:

Leftovers, oil on panel, 18 x 22 inches

Aubrey Levinthal
Spaghetti for Breakfast
January 6 - 29, 2016
Opening reception: Friday, January 8, 5 - 7 pm

Gross McCleaf is pleased to announce, Spaghetti for Breakfast, an exhibition of works by Aubrey Levinthal.  Her paintings present food, friends, humor, and the ordinary daily struggles of a life lived. Through the painter's compassionate and scrutinizing eyes, viewers are introduced into a world of gritty beauty seen with informed optimism, stripped of superficial facades.

Sometimes just an outline, sometimes only implied, hidden figures blend into and emerge from her compositions.   With a sense of humor, the artist captures the complexity of life lived with open eyes, curiosities, and doubt. For Levinthal, any personal experience, no matter how mundane or grandiose can be a point of departure.  She paints ordinary scenes with a sensitivity to the intimate and personal moments that often go unnoticed and underappreciated.  Many times her interest falls to those intervals before everything is resolved; before objects solidify and come into focus.

Levinthal's paintings are touched by references to her artistic predecessors. Nods to Matisse and the Nabis appear in her paintings, simultaneously paying homage and providing insight into her own art historical influences. These rich details, as well as the artist's use of paint, reward close attention. Like a soft-spoken whisper from a trusted friend, we look and listen knowing that what is being said has substance.

Aubrey Levinthal is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Pennsylvania State University. She currently paints and lives in Philadelphia.

Toru's Spaghetti Breakfast, oil on panel, 31.5 x 27 inches.

Gross McCleaf Gallery
127 S. Sixteenth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Tel: 215-665-8138
Gallery Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 - 5

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Serendipity of Objects

I had individual critiques with each of my first year students from my beginning still life class at PAFA.  I thought instead of a group critique, which we had many of throughout the semester, a chance to talk one on one might be a better way to end.  I usually wrapped them up with the question, "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss, ask, get feedback on?" And one student said, "Yes, why do you paint still life objects in your own work?" Hmmm.  Good question.  Hard question to answer in that situation.  I said something like, "They seem important to me because they are constantly around me, in my life, standing in and easy to draw memories from."  Is that why?  Partially.  I think also because they are so good to construct a painting from for me.  I feel an ease with their shapes and a freedom to invent so that the painting works and unexpected relationships come to be .

googly eye and scissors photo courtesy of Things Fitting Perfectly into Other Things

A few days ago, I stumbled upon this article, The Existential Satisfaction of Things Fitting Perfectly into Other Things, in The Atlantic (a publication I have really been enjoying for its thorough reporting and on the pulse discussions) and the writer gives words to something similar: the odd satisfying sensation of objects unexpectedly being perfect for each other in the real, physical world.  The notion is silly in a way but poetic in another.  It's such a small thing when the coin in her pocket fits in her iphone cover perfectly but its like a talisman for the serendipity that can be found in the world, and that is so comforting to stumble upon.

Laptop and cookie sheet   

So today when I went to pack all my paintings for my solo show into my friend's pickup (which was not the car I thought I would use but turned out other options were too small), I felt so, so good, good beyond what is logical about the fact that they fit in perfect line with the edges of the truck.  I've been into these external signs from the physical world and this one takes the cake.  The uncontrollable, night-sweats, chill-inducing anxiety of this thing was least for the drive over to the gallery.