Michael E. Smith @ What Pipeline

What Pipeline, Exterior image, Southwest Detroit

I had heard and read about What Pipeline gallery tucked back off of Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit, and I finally got to attend the opening of Michael E. Smith’s work there recently, September 28, 2018.  Smith, a native Detroit artist who was the recipient in the very first round of Kresge Artist Awards, earned a B.F.A from the College for Creative Studies and a M.F.A. from Yale University of Art.

What Pipeline owners Alivia Zivich and Daniel Sperry have leased the small building and renovated the space into four white walls, concrete floors and a small backroom where they have mounted more than 16 exhibits since May of 2013.

The exhibits have consisted of mostly contemporary art that is sometimes representational, like Mary Ann Aitken’s work, as well as abstract, performance, installation and conceptual work, using their four white walls and floor space with florescent ceiling bulbs. In addition, they have curated exhibitions in spaces outside their gallery, that include:  Henning Bohl at Balice Hertling, Paris, Dylan Spaysky and Mary Ann Aitken at Andrew Kreps, NYC and Bailey Scieszka at Paul Soto/Park View, LA.  When you visit their website, they have shown artists from all over, but also some Detroit artists like Bailey Scieszka, who earned her B.F.A. from Cooper Union in 2011, and got reviewed by Clayton Press of Forbes, where he says, “…where she continues to develop a truly original, almost meat-grinder blend of object and performance art that resists categorization.” They are currently in the throws of publishing a book about her work.

When I walked into What Pipeline’s single large space, all I saw was a large commercial video camera on the floor.  Behind the lens was an embedded potato. There must be more? I thought.  Turns out, that was it and a white chair with a turtle skull in the back room. (additionally, two objects that were not officially in the exhibition)

Michael E. Smith, Untitled Image courtesy of What Pipeline

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2018 Image courtesy of What Pipeline

I experienced the space with only the video camera off set from the middle of the room, took an image or two, and started to ponder.  The only context I could muster was Dada, sometimes referred to as Dadasim.  The movement started with European artists who found materials and abstract forms to distance themselves from the establishment and remove themselves from everyday life. The setting for Dada came into being in Zurich around 1916, and was clearly a reaction to the chaos of World War I, where the discourse in art was dominated by a rationalist philosophy from expressionistic representation, impressionism, and cubism.  It was the famous work by Marcel Duchamp, The Fountain,signed R. Mutt in 1917 that became the icon of Dada. It was the salon writer, Hugo Ball, at the Cabaret Voltaire, who began to rebel against the rationalist philosophy and encourage artists to experiment with nontraditional materials.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, Image Alfred Stieglitz, 1917

Could the artist be reacting to the societal scene in today’s world, with politics, violence, climate change, and sexual assaults all on the rise?  Could this be “nothing” as a grand idea where art is in rebellion?  The other option is the Conceptual art movement in which the concept or idea takes precedence over the traditional aesthetic of many forms of representational material. Not far from that would be Installation as a genre of three-dimensional works that often are site specific and defined by the space they occupy. It could be that Smith is working against traditional contemporary forces and uses bland objects as a point of departure: a way to protest.

The artist Michael E. Smith is represented by Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York City. Their description of his work goes like this:

“Michael E. Smith’s sculptures strip everyday objects down to their most minimal state. In his constructions, Smith employs materials both natural and manmade, highlighting a tension between a culture of abundance and the rapid loss of reserves. Organizing the installation of his sculptures and videos around existing architectural features, Smith builds an emotional tenor throughout the spaces of his exhibitions. Tied to their sources, the works reveal the social and economic factors involved in their making. Originating from the discarded elements of our society, they bear with them the accumulated traces of human experience, evoking simultaneously their future and their loss.”

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2018 Image courtesy of DAR

As in this exhibition, Smith has used chairs in several pieces, like his exhibition at Susanne Hilberry Gallery in 2014 where he attached a pipe to the side of a similar white chair and made an ear-like object from an old-fashioned leather football. The artist seems to strip everyday objects, both natural and manmade to a minimal state and proceed to build a tenor throughout the gallery space.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled

Michael E. Smith, Untitled Image courtesy of What Pipeline

In the smaller space at the back of the gallery there are some objects that are not officially part of this exhibition but interesting to this writer because they provide more information about the artist and his sensibility.  This work is sometimes simultaneously dark and comic, not to mention unclear, leaving the viewer with a lot to contemplate. And perhaps that is the point.

I think it is fair to say that Smith works with discarded and mundane objects hoping something will resonate with a certain population in search of art that is “everyday ambiguous” and challenging to the intellectual process of discernment. When spending time at an exhibition of visual art, I ask myself would I want this on the wall in my living room? The answer, with respect to the work of Michael E. Smith, is sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

What Pipeline has been involved in publishing books: Mary Ann Aitken, Black Abstract 1983-2011, Isaac Pool’s work in Light Stain, Diary of Steit, work by Veit Lauren Kurz & Stefan Tcherepnin, Pope.L Flint Water Edition, and most recently, More Heart Than Brains: The Collected Plays of Bailey Scieszka, where this publication will premiere at the Detroit Art Book Fair at Trinosophes, October 13, 12-6pm, and October 14, 12-4pm.

What Pipeline,  Michael E. Smith through November 10, 2018

 

Coping Mechanisms @ Library Street Collective

Install Image, Paul Kremer, Sam Durant, and Tony Matelli, DAR 2018

Right in the heart of Downtown Detroit, the Library Street Collective, a NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) member, has sustained a commanding presence for six years, specializing in cutting-edge contemporary art. The current large group exhibition is no exception, with Coping Mechanisms, that features several Detroit artists and an array of artists from different parts of the country. My first review at LSC came when I reviewed work by Artist-in-Residence and head of Painting at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Beverly Fishman, part of Pain Management in 2016.  I said then, “Fishman’s new work engages the viewer with these painted wood objects using a process commonly associated with industrial fabrication. The work is more like a Gran Turismo Maserati than a KIA sedan. She uses coated aluminum, wood, polished stainless steel, cast resin, phosphorescent pigment, and urethane paint, to punch through and establish an abstract idea.”

Beverly Fishman, Black and White Obama, Puffy Bart, Smiley, 2013

In this current exhibition, we see some earlier work, a trilogy of objects on the wall that include Smiley, Puffy Bart, and Black and White Obama, all Urethane on Wood from 2013. The satirical theme demonstrates her approach to stereotyped images in the public eye, and delivers the consistent elements of craft, scale and technology. Other work in the exhibition that shares this sensibility is the new work by Greg Bogin, Smile, and Warped, both Urethane on canvas.

Greg Bogin, Warped, Acrylic and urethane on canvas, 2018

Another Detroit artist represented in this exhibition is Greg Fadell, whose work first appeared to this writer at the Simone DeSousa Gallery in 2012 in her exhibition called Nothingness. His abstract expressionistic work here, Nothing, was part of a group of work and provides the viewer with a sweeping brush stroke with dripping white paint void of color.  The scale and grid offers a powerful composition for the action of the paint and feels like a logical continuation of action painting of the abstract expressionistic period in New York City.

Greg Fadell, Nothing, Formulated Acrylic on cotton, 2012

The work by artist Mark Flood, The Interview, 2018 is a screen image on canvas with graffiti messaging that speaks to the Me Too movement where Harvey Weinstein is positioned next to a female celebrity and plays off current events of our time. The interdisciplinary artist is best known for his Lace Paintings Series made up of delicate compositions applied in overlapping layers of lace and paint.

Mark Flood, Where Does the Sun Go at Night?, Acrylic on printed canvas, 2018

The exhibition, curated by Sara Nickleson, provides a hand-out that walks the reader through a list of forty coping mechanisms, inferring that art can provide a method of coping during times of stress and disengagement. The massive group show  features the artists: Greg Bogin, Cali Thornhill-Dewitt, Sam Durant, Greg Fadell, Beverly Fishman, Mark Flood, Thrush Holmes, Paul Kremer, Micah Lexier, Tony Matelli, Cassi Namoda, Kilee Price, Scott Reeder, Sheida Soleimani, Adam Parker Smith, Willie Wayne Smith and Devin Troy Strother.

It is work mentioning that the gallery has been involved in significant projects; one with Dan Gilbert on “Z Lot” where artists have created 130-foot-wide murals inside the garage has turned the Z – along with the adjacent BELT Alley, and the “Public Art projects”, like the How and Nosm and Shepard Fairey mural and the 118 x 50 foot mural Still Searching mural by Charles McGee on the north elevation of 28 Grand in Downtown, Detroit.

Charles McGhee, Mural Project, 2015

Library Street Collective, Coping Mechanism, runs through October 13th, 2018

 

Fall Exhibitions 2018 @ Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center kicked off its 2018 fall season with contrasting exhibitions by Dick Goody and Anne Gilman. 

Dick Goody exhibition at the BBAC main gallery, Install image. 2018

At the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, in the Kantgais / DeSalle Gallery, Dick Goody, Professor of Art and Chair of Oakland University’s Department of Art and Art History, serves up expressionistic painting that continues along on his path of depicting a universe of figures, landscape and still life that feel at times autobiographical. The oil on canvas works are flat, nuanced, ambiguous and reflect a somewhat consistent color palate, especially his repeated use of his selected color of red.  What has left his subject matter from previous work is the direct use of words and writing passages, that in the past work would often dominate the composition.  In this exhibition, The Garden City, Goody’s painting seems like a cross between early figurative work by the English artist David Hockney, and the black outlines used by the German expressionistic painter Max Beckmann as in his work Quappi in Grey, 1948.  These Goody paintings are not copied from any reality, but rather are a style of painting where the artist seeks to express an emotional experience reflecting his environment: cutting the grass, reading a book, playing the piano, observing an object or having a meal.

Dick Goody, Haberman Cutting the Grass, Oil on Canvas, 54 x 36″, 2017

In the painting, Haberman Cutting the Grass,  we see Goody’s persona, Haberman, cutting a small patch of grass,  maybe in an English village, or an older Detroit 1920’s neighborhood, perhaps fueled by nostalgia from growing up in England. There is a real economy of form and color that accompany this figure-centered composition. With the character’s mouth open, we wonder what he is saying. Not that it matters.

Dick Goody, Zeilwand Lieb, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 65″, 2018

Clearly, these images are figments of an imagination that is autobiographical and asks the question: Can you ever really get beyond yourself? In the work, Zeilwand Lieb, the character is sitting at the piano in a theatrical form of “white face” while spring trees shed their pedaled flowers, Goody’s figurative persona ponders a musical manuscript. He selects his objects carefully and adds a touch of serialism to this expressionistic picture.  Inside or outside… or both?

I sat down with the artist and asked a few questions.

Ron ScottHow would describe your interest in painting from an earlier age onward?

Dick Goody – When I was a kid – I loved old sailing ships – like the ones Admiral Lord Nelson commanded at the Battle of Trafalgar. I spent hours and hours drawing rigging and sea battles. Out of the blue, when I was eight, I did a painting of popsicles: primary colors outlined in black – really, if you think about it, not a lot has changed – and the teacher put it on the wall. I remember it because things like that never happened.

At the art school interview, they said: “Tell us about your vision?” I had difficulty being serious about being serious. So I stared into space and said I wanted to do horses and astronauts. At the end, they said: “Ah, so you’re a history painter. “My first painting was of Clint Eastwood against this brutalist architectural background. My tutors hated it. They said: “Chill out and loosen up.” After three years of this I ended up doing simplified paintings of aeroplanes, but the moment I graduated I started doing scenario paintings again, pictures of food or people. I did a huge painting of a hunk of Stilton followed by a small roll of toilet paper picture – bought, incidentally, by an art historian, of all people.

Ron Scott – What kind of personal experiences best inform your work?

Dick Goody – All sorts of things. I mean it’s my life. Someone asked me why there’s an ironing board in one of the paintings. I live in a 1920s Tudor in Detroit and I saw this photo of David Bowie in his first house, Haddon Hall, which was a large Tudor revival in Kent, and there’s an ironing board in the living room and it made me remember how people in the UK do their ironing wherever there’s a TV. There’s a piano in several paintings and there wouldn’t be if I didn’t have one. There’s another painting of two people having dinner called Too Many New York Dinners and it’s about the whole adventure of dining out there, which after a while becomes no adventure at all, just something that’s going to eat up three exhausting hours.

Ron Scott – A few years back when we had lunch, you mentioned to me that you thought painting was “dead”? Am I right about that and has that idea undergone a change?

Dick Goody – If it was before 2006, I may have said that, but I can’t remember. It’s a stupid thing to say. Painting is immortal, isn’t it? But sometimes we go through periods when it seems to be on life support. Right now, it’s full of life. So yes, it’s changed, but it’s always changing. There’s a lot of diversity in painting right now in every sense.

Ron Scott – Do you see any relationship between your curatorial work and your painting?

Dick Goody – Don’t do both on the same day. I wouldn’t want to defuse a bomb when picking up my brushes either. In the studio, I shut everything else out. There has to be a firewall between the two things. Curating is about the macro; it’s all-encompassing. It follows protocols. There are all sorts of systems in place and multiple external reasons for one’s decisions. Painting is like getting in a car in your painting clothes without a clear idea of where you’re going – let’s just say that when I’m painting I’m not thinking about the skill and discernment it takes to organize exhibitions – I only care about the paint and the action in front of me. Truly, in the studio, on any given day, I have no idea where I’m going to end up.

Ron Scott – Could you explain more about the environments that you create in this universe of yours. ? 

Dick Goody – There are not that many things: reading, playing the piano, a long evening meal, work, my house, the garden, traveling. It’s a very narrow universe, but it has to be. But the universe of one’s paintings is an immense region and full of digression, hidden pathways and side trips – and adventures, infatuations, and fixations.

Dick Goody, What are you taking about?, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 48″, 2018

As the artist explores his Garden City with its landscapes, personas, domestic norms, and objects of interest, he has created this imaginary world.  The work, now void of literary statements, books, and characters from his dystopian novella, Goody has turned introspective, and I contend, nostalgic. Strong compositions, are supported with vivid color palette and black line.  In the work What are you talking about?, Goody has his painting, Haberman Cutting the Grass,  inside the composition and a target on his back, where he becomes the center of the universe, asking the female character, what are you talking about? They’re talking about art.

Dick Goody earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He also holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Art and Design Education from Middlesex University. Goody’s own paintings have been featured in nine solo shows and over forty group exhibitions in London, New York and Detroit.

 

Anne Gilman – Up Close / in the Distance / Now,  Conceptual Works on Paper

Anne Gilman, BBAC Robison Gallery, install image, 2018

As part of the opening season at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, the Robinson Gallery hosts the work of Anne Gilman, a native of Brooklyn, NY whose work is made up of drawing and writing on large sheets of paper where she displays her thoughts and feelings combined with color patches that in some cases reflect a mood or psychological state of being.  These works could be described as maps that delve into personal explorations of the artist combined with events in the outside world.

Anne Gilman, Boiling Point, Ink, pencil, on Mulberry paper, 2018

What this viewer experiences in the piece Boiling point,is a combination of literary expression, a confluence of material, and a concern for composition and color. The work on paper is often monochromatic in that there is a preference for a red theme, or blue theme that combines horizontal line work with cursive writing, intentionally not legible.

Gilman says, “I often work on paper that is larger than my body so I can sit on top of it and become immersed in its space. I rule out lines for extemporaneous writing and create confined spaces that contain layers of color, texture and tape. I use my own response to personal, political, and social concerns as the starting point for creating a mapping of information, thought, and emotion. Keywords and phrases reference ideas that emerge as I work while large expanses of texture reference an inscrutable landscape or atmosphere that I create as a safe or calm space.”

Anne Gilman, You might wait forever, Pencil, graphite, ink, BIC pen, tape on paper, 2018

 

Often her work is triggered by an event, be it political, social or personal, where she makes her selection of color and writing, where the mapping of information is secondary to the layout of space, color and composition. I refer to the work as conceptual in the open, meaning work where the concept or idea behind the work is more important that the finished art object, but this work could be easily described as drawing / installation.  Her concerns as an artist address her concerns as a person that seems to be launched based on a psychological state of being.   What is added to this exhibition alongside each work is a passage where the artist articulates background information that takes on an educational component designed to inform the work.  Here is an example of what accompanies this work of art, You Might Wait Forever.

“This drawing was made after a protracted illness, so much of the text is a referencing to a reorganizing of priorities.”

An excerpt from Gilman’s extemporaneous writing:  “Thinking about the degree of calm or letting go I had when I was sick, the paradox of finding some strange peace or knowledge that there was no fighting the state I was in.  I was able to finally enter a non-doing state, a place where I gave into each moment and had complete clarity of what my limitations were.  When you are that sick, there’s no more pushing and thinking of all the “shoulds.”  When you are that sick, each moment has a particular kind of clarity about what is needed or not needed. Maintaining that clarity as you get well, that is the hard part.”

Anne Gilman, The Place of possibility, Pencil, paint, tape on paper, 2016

More abstract than others, Gilman”s The place of possibility, conveys as a reminder that you never know the end of a story. More open space, perforated line, less color,  and various text that addresses the steps taken to achieve clarity, perhaps at the center of the piece.

Anne Gilman earned her BFA/Painting, State University of New York at New Paltz and MFA/Drawing and Painting from Brooklyn College, NYC.  She teaches in the graduate and undergraduate programs at Pratt Institute, NYC.

Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center current exhibitions run through October 11, 2018.

Obsession @ Met Breuer, NYC

Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection

The exhibition Obsession at the Met Breuer Museum in New York City is both a revelatory exploration of early 20th Century modernism and a fascinating study of frank portrayals of female nudity by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso.  The Met Breuer is housed in a landmark building on Madison Avenue and East 75th street that was once the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1966 to 2015, and is now leased for ten years by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an attempt to provide needed space for contemporary exhibitions. The building was designed by Hungarian-born Marcel Breuer (1902 -1981), a former student and teacher at the Bauhaus who first specialized in furniture design and then went on to devote himself to architecture and immerse himself in the new developing technology of concrete and plate glass.

Gustav Klimt, Serpents II, (Women Friends), Oil on Canvas, 32 x 57”, 1906

These paintings, as in Water Serpents II, were considered unconventional for the times, depicting nude women together in attitudes of pleasure.  Many of Klimt’s paintings included small symbols, lines and objects and often used a metallic oil paint that sets the space around the figure in abstract fields of color and design.

Gustav Klimt, The Bride, Oil on Canvas, 65 x 75”, 1917

The oeuvre of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) consists of two hundred paintings and more than four thousand drawings, most of them devoted to women.  His fame as a draftsman rests on works executed after 1905 and his earliest depictions of the nude body was for the ceiling at the University of Vienna which already illustrated a break with conventions and taboos.  After 1912, Klimt made numerous independent drawings, including many erotic compositions showing lesbian couples or masturbating women.

Gustav Klimt, Reclining Nude with Drapery, Graphite on Paper, 1913

The drawing, Reclining Nude with Drapery, belongs to a group of fifty Klimt drawings showing women pleasuring themselves. With her eyes closed, the model seems unaware of both her surroundings and the viewer.

Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait, Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 1911

In the course of his brief life, Egon Schiele, (1890-1918) created more than three hundred paintings and some three thousand drawings and watercolors.  He was known to draw constantly and everywhere: in his studio, on trains, in restaurants and in nature.  He looked to Gustav Klimt as a friend and a father figure.  He became well known for his ethereal contour lines and made over 170 self-portraits between 1908 and his death in 1918.  In this early work, he reduced his already thin body to skin and bones, and poses naked in front of a large mirror in his studio. In these seemingly decaying bodies, Schiele is posed in a sexually exhibitionistic way, displaying his groin and genitals.

Schiele’s nudes are more explicitly and provocatively erotic in this exhibition.  In his insatiable curiosity about the female figure, he showed no restraint, sometimes veering toward the clinical as in the watercolor Observed in a Dream.

Egon Scheile, Observed in a Dream, Watercolor and graphite on paper, 1911

Contented after masturbating, the model keeps her vulva open with bejeweled hands. The exaggeratedly large genitals in a reddish-orange hue echoed in her nipples and generous lips, evoke a carnivorous plant.  From the title, she may have existed as an epitome of the sexual object, and the viewer is led to believe this is something that lived in a dream.

Egon Schiele, Standing Nude with Orange Drapery, Watercolor, gouache, graphite on paper, 1914

By 1914 Schiele had replaced the tense bodies with fuller and more relaxed ones as in this watercolor. He probably drew her while she was lying down, but the placement of his signature turns her upright.

The heavy graphite drawing depicts the titillating nude touching herself from a slightly elevated position.  During the final two years of his life, Schiele made hundreds of these drawings, mostly female nudes that appear more facile than his previous work.  His erotic drawings lost some of their intensity, and gradually his work became more baroque.  In the autumn of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic that claimed 20 to 50 million lives in Europe reached Vienna. Edith, his wife, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28 October, followed by Schiele, who died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old.

Pablo Picasso, Erotic Scene, Oil on Canvas, 1902

The earliest work in this exhibition is Erotic Scene 1902, an imaginary re-creation of Picasso’s sexual initiation in a Barcelona brothel. He made this work during what became known as his Blue Period, a bleak phase during which he painted the poor, outsiders and beggars.

Pablo Picasso, Youth in Archway, Conte crayon on paper, 1906

What followed in the years around 1906 were drawings that displayed bodies with ease and unselfconscious classicism.  Art historians trace the figure and the pose of this youth to antiquity as well as to Michelangelo. Although the boy’s features reappear in many other works, there is some disagreement about the intent of this pose.  Innocent nudity or strangely voluptuous?   Much, if not all of the work during this period took place in the remote village of northern Catalonia, high in the Pyrenees and close to the border with Andorra, at Gosol, where it was recommended he would find “good air.”  The artist visited the town with his lover at the time, Fernande Olivier and stayed at a lodging house surrounded by a romantic environment that influenced the work.

Pablo Picasso, Boy Leading Horse, Oil on Canvas, 1906

While Pablo Picasso’s work had been shown in the United States, Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele were unknown in this country at that time, but eventually became known throughout Europe and then this country. Much of the exhibition is drawing, and these works on paper have rarely been exhibited because of the exposure to light over time.

The curators responsible for Obsession:Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are Sabine Rewald, Jacques and Natasha Gelman, all part of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso through October 7, 2018.

 

Dustin London @ Holding House

Exterior, Holding House Gallery, 2016

Heading west on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, about five blocks past I-96 you will find the Holding House Gallery on the north side of the street, almost invisible in this older urban neighborhood. Those are glass blocks you see covering the front of the building (void of any signage), providing beautiful interior illumination that diffuses light evenly. It has an appeal unto itself.

Dustin London, Installation image, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of Holding House, 2018

As part of Detroit Art Week, the gallery opened with the abstract work of Dustin London, Daybreak, an artist who also is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art & Design at Eastern Michigan University.  Holding House Director Andrea Eckert says, “Signals of information marked with repeated intervals of paint shows London’s preference for mesmeric processes. London presents the value of accumulation in a series of chromatic oil paintings. Through planned layers of color, the paintings resolve into a playful landscape of shape and form.”

Dustin London, Palindrome, 52 x 62, Oil on Canvas,

When I first experienced the work, especially the painting Palindrome,I was attracted to the forms and color combinations.  I immediately did a mental search for a broader context. The first thing that came to me was Russian Constructivism, circa 1920.  Artists like Paul Gadegaard, or Alexandra Exter, who did their work nearly a hundred years ago. Compared to London’s abstractions, there are similar elements you would find in Russian Avant-Garde Constructivism, recently on exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, 2017.

London’s overall green-based composition contrasts shape, line and form.  Standing at a distance, the viewer gets a hard edge that defines the shape, something like Frank Stella, who used tape to create the edge, but upon closer observation, London’s edge is produced using a brush in a very consistent square stroke of oil paint. The circular gradation is created by the line work.  Lines are solid and perforated, while the picture plane is divided in half.  The foreground on a light green background juxtaposes to this olive green background, both engulfing an amoeba-like shape.  What is powerful is that we are left not sure what we are seeing or where it fits into our universe, often referred to as original.

Dustin London, Oil on Canvas, Detail, 2017

When asked in a recent interview in Artspace 2013 why impermanence is important to his work, London answers, “Just before I started making these I was interested in ephemeral visual moments but was making paintings on canvas that were essentially descriptions of experiences. For example, a simple line may have referred to a shape caught out of my periphery while walking my dog. At a certain point, it seemed more appropriate to cut out the middle-man, as it were, and allow the work itself to become impermanent rather than refer to impermanence through a rather concrete form. This corresponded to an ongoing desire for freshness and openness in the work, never wanting to close anything down. It seemed appropriate to shift the work to a place where it was more about a process, where a piece became an action or decision in a specific place and specific time, inseparable from me as a living, breathing human being, where the piece also had a certain lifespan. Documenting these actions just felt natural.”

Dustin London, R-A-T-Q, 70 x 60″, Oil on Canvas, 2017

Constructivism was the last art movement to flourish in the 20th century as a modern and influential movement in Russia.  It evolved just as the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, and its purpose was to replace traditional composition with a focus on the construction of materials. Concerned with the use of ‘real materials in real space,’ the movement sought to use art as a tool for the common good, much in line with the Communist principles of the new Russian regime. Many of the Russian Constructivist works from this period involve projects in architecture, and bled into typography and graphics, ultimately having an effect on Western art.

This journey into abstraction goes back in time and comes out new.  This is the way of visual art, hence the saying “there is nothing new under the sun.”  The vastness and variety of visual art today is a reconstitution of our past, whether a thousand, hundreds or even only ten years past.

Expressionism, Impressionism, Cubism, Minimalism, Figurative, Landscape, and Abstract art live on in time as demonstrated here by the work of Dustin London.

Dustin London’s work has been exhibited at venues including NURTUREart in Brooklyn, Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Emily Davis Gallery at the University of Akron, the Untitled Art Fair in Miami Beach, and TSA Gallery in Brooklyn. He has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, Willapa Bay AiR, Jentel, Vermont Studio Center, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. London is a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and his work has been featured in New American Paintings, Fresh Paint Magazine, Paint Pulse Magazine, and The New York Times. He received a BFA from Michigan State University and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Holding House –Dustin London,  Daybreak,  Solo Exhibition, July 22 – 28, 2018