Matthew Hawtin @ David Klein Gallery

Matthew Hawtin, Installation image at the David Klein Gallery, image courtesy of DAR

In his Solo Exhibition, Matthew Hawtin Presents Minimal Abstraction

It seems fitting to mention that abstraction has been with us since the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky migrated his landscape to a purely abstract form on canvas sometime in late 1910. I always make the comparison to music, since instrumental music is abstract by nature—it does not try to represent the exterior world, but expresses in an immediate way the artist’s inner feelings, from Mozart to John Cage.

The David Klein Gallery opened the Matthew Hawtin exhibit September 9, 2017, with pure minimalist abstract objects executing perfected forms and pristine surface qualities. These shaped canvases rendered in primary/secondary colors, could not be executed more flawlessly. Some are on “torqued canvas,” others on fiberglass panels, all accompanied by a variety of exquisite surfaces. The copiousness of Hawtin’s invention, and his conception seem to allow him to explore each and every multiplicity of these ideas uniquely.

Matthew Hawtin, Stargazer, 45 x 45 x 19, Acrylic on Fiberglass paner 2017

Hawtin says, “Although each series has its own technical demands, they all live in aesthetic parallel that blurs the line between artistic disciplines. There is a determination to continually push the work forward through aesthetic variations, technical refinements and experimenting with new materials. Within this forward trajectory, there is an overall vision to create art that is ‘other-worldly’ and in a sense, futuristic.”

Matthew Hawtin, Cardinal, 42 x 44 X 12, Acrylic on Fiberglass Panel, 2017

The basic context for Hawtin is the color minimalist from the 1970s, including Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Kenneth Nolan, and Anne Truitt. The secondary would be the shaped canvas artist, revisited recently in an exhibition by Luxembourg & Dayan in New York, with artists like Lynda Benglis, Elizatheth Murray, and Charles Hinman. Hawtin’s work is a hybrid of these two concepts that fights hard against representational artwork and abstract expressionistic painting, with a large degree of success. The new works that fit into corners are particularly interesting and unique. These works, composed of parallelograms, diamonds, trapezoids, rhomboids, and circles, are reductively streamlined, solid in their color and simplified in their forms that, forty years later, remain robust and encompassing in an array of approaches, especially with respect to the surface material.

Matthew Hawtin, Working in the studio, 2017, Courtesy of Artnet

Born in England, and then moved to Windsor, Canada in 1979, Matthew Hawtin earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from York University in Toronto and an master’s in architecture from the University of East London, in London.

 

Bryan Graf’s Photographic images: DEBRIS OF THE DAYS

Bryan Graf, Interstates, Shortcuts, A Factory an Open Field and a Few Homes, 2016 c-Prints mounted with cleats, 40 Unique, 8 x 10″

In the second gallery at the David Klein Gallery, the artist Bryan Graf focuses on Photograms, one of the earliest forms of photography, to create abstract tension between text and image, in a variety of scale.

Photograms are images made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material, such as photographic paper, and then exposing it to light. Like drawing or painting, the process is like creating a collage without the need for scissors or glue. Rather, Graf has become highly skilled at controlling the process in the darkroom using color, shape and composition.

Bryan Graf, Chromatic Aqueduct, 40 x 74″ 2016, Unique Photogram and C-Print

Director of the David Klein Gallery, Christine Schefman says, “The photographs in Debris of the Days originate in a garden. It is a cultivation of ongoing works not limited to themselves, but rather a procession of generative images. Graf integrates his own gestural activity into the work by utilizing materials gathered on site as well the use of manipulations in the darkroom. His inquiry into the positive tension between text and image, as well as literary and musical influences, are evident in the arrangement of works for this show. His practice continues to reveal his interest in the history of photography and its relationship to design, painting and narrative fiction.”

Bryan Graf earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Art Institute of Boston and a master of fine arts from Yale University in 2008.

The exhibitions by Matthew Hawtin and Bryan Graf run through October 21, 2017

David Klein Gallery

Unpacking Frank Lloyd Wright @ MoMA

Installation view of Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 12–October 01, 2017. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

The holdings of the Frank Lloyd Wright archive, jointly acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and the Avery Architectural & Fine Art Library at Columbia University in 2012, are vast—no surprise, since Wright’s career spanned a seventy-year trajectory. The archive’s holdings comprise 55,000 drawings, 125,000 photographs, and well over a quarter-million sheets of correspondence, not to mention models, architectural fragments, films, and other multimedia. If the celebrated 20th century architect were alive today, he’d be 150, and to commemorate his sesquicentennial the MoMA’s exhibition Unpacking the Archives presents over 400 works from the archives, offering an illuminating thematic and chronological survey of Wright’s career.

Installation view of Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 12–October 01, 2017. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

The show’s title wittily puns on both the content of the exhibition, all gleaned from the newly-acquired archive, and on the show’s organization, for which twenty MoMA curators take an object of their choosing and explain (“unpack”) its relevance within the context of Wright’s career. This curatorial decision offers a refreshingly new approach to a survey of Wright, since some of his most iconic works (the Robie House, for example) are conspicuously absent, and viewers are introduced to some of Wright’s lesser known projects, such as his unrealized plans for Rosenwald School and his utopian Davidson Little Farms Unit.

Each of the exhibition’s fourteen galleries focuses either on a specific theme (ornament, ecology, circular geometries, and urbanism, to name a few) or an architectural structure (starting with the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and culminating with the Guggenheim). Some gallery spaces reinforce some of Wright’s most characteristic attributes, such as his compulsive obsession with total design. Not content to merely design a structure, Wright famously maintained absolute control over all the interior furniture and furnishings, going so far as to show up uninvited on the doorsteps of prior clients to ensure sure that the totality of his interior design scheme remained unaltered.

Other galleries playfully stray from the conventional narrative arc of Wright’s career. One room, devoted to studio drawings, displays drawings by Wright’s own hand juxtaposed with drawings from studio assistants, making the point that the studio’s more refined and aesthetic “perspective drawings” were generally rendered by specialists, such as the manifestly talented Marion Mahony. Perhaps the most surprising and satisfying original drawings on view, simply because they burst with spontaneity, were the sketches Wright made on a napkin as he was working out some design problems posed by his mile-high skyscraper.

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Fallingwater (Kaufmann House), Mill Run, Pennsylvania. 1934–37. Perspective from the south. Pencil and colored pencil on paper, 15 3/8 × 25 1/4″ (39.1 × 64.1 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved

The exhibition is heavy on two-dimensional architectural layouts, floorplans, and perspective drawings, but there are also some examples of the furnishings Wright’s studio created, ranging from art-glass windows, furniture, tableware, rugs and drapery. Also on view are the elaborate sculptural models Wright produced to help pitch ideas to his clients. These include a model of his iconic Guggenheim, flanked by an early perspective-rendering of the building, reminding us that the structure was once to have been an alarmingly garish pink.

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 1943–59. Model. Painted wood, plastic, glass beads, ink, and watercolor on paper, 28 x 62 x 44″ (71.1 x 157.5 x 111.8 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Wright at 150 directly acknowledges Wright’s Michigan connection in its display of an elaborate layout Wright drafted for Kalamazoo’s Galesburg Community, known as “The Acres,” originally to contain a network of homes on twenty-one circular-shaped lots, though in the end only four were built. The exhibition also devotes significant space to his Usonian homes, the comparatively inexpensive do-it-yourself (in theory, anyway) home-kits Wright’s studio produced, intending to make quality architecture available to the middle class; the Detroit area boasts of three such homes: the Turkel House (Palmer Woods), the Smith House (Bloomfield township), and the Affleck House (Bloomfield Hills). And some of Wright’s textile patterns on view (such as his March Baloons, depicting an elaborate network of intersecting circles) have been adopted by Ann Arbor’s Motawi Tileworks, which produces a handsome line of Wright-inspired ceramic decorative tile.

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). March Balloons. 1955. Drawing based on a c. 1926 design for Liberty magazine. Colored pencil on paper, 28 1/4 x 24 1/2 in. (71.8 x 62.2 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York) © 2017 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved.

Spread across a generous suite of galleries on the MoMA’s third floor, this exhibition at first glance seems perhaps austere (just one floor up, after all, are the reliably crowd-pleasing combines of Rauschenberg displayed alongside some of the zany 1970s kinetic works produced by the organization Experiments in Art and Technology). By contrast, Wright’s stately and geometric architectural plans on view in Unpacking the Archive seem emphatically cerebral, in some cases even displayed on mock-draft tables. But his ideas were revolutionary for his time, whether it be the need for sustainable architecture or for quality housing for all social classes, rather than just the proverbial 1%. And this cross-section of the Frank Lloyd Wright archive offers revealing and unprecedented access into the agile mind of an architect whose ideas remain uncannily relevant today.

 

Museum of Modern Art    Exhibition runs through October 1, 2017

 

Kara Walker @ Toledo Museum of Art

Kara Elizabeth Walker is an African American painter, silhouettist, and print-maker, who  explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. This exhibition is Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War.

Kara Walker, Installation image, courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art

In 1866, the magazine Harpers Weekly published its Pictorial History of the Civil War, a hulking two-volume set which anthologized its prior five years of war reportage, replete with over a thousand illustrative woodcuts. American artist Kara Walker, known for her unsettling and often violent depictions of the antebellum South, “annotates” fifteen illustrations from the series by superimposing silkscreened silhouettes atop the unfolding dramas depicted in the original woodcuts, interrupting the narrative and re-contextualizing the images.

On view at the Toledo Museum of Art until October 22, this small but worthwhile exhibition features all fifteen silkscreens from Walker’s Annotated Pictorial History of the Civil War (2005), newly acquired by the TMA. There’s a helpful curatorial statement on the wall introducing the series, but from that point onward, viewers are just given the title of each work, so each image must be confronted on its own terms. Furthermore, they’re intentionally displayed without any obvious beginning or ending point, subverting any chronological narrative structure.

Tara Walker, Installation image, courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art

Walker’s calculated use of the silhouette harkens back to the antebellum-era popularity of the silhouette portrait in genteel society. But the silhouette is also loaded with associations of physiognomy; Walker’s silhouettes typically confront 19th century racial stereotypes though heightened exaggeration, caricaturing the caricature. Her silhouetted forms and figures also conscientiously reference Rorschach tests, the interpretations of which are fluid and in which there’s continual interplay between positive and negative space. In these lithographs, this interplay is dramatically heightened since the negative space consists of dramatically enlarged images from Harper’s Pictorial History.

Here, Kara Walker combines her art with characteristic wit and verbal irony; her “annotations” in this case are the silhouetted figures which place in the foreground that which was marginalized in Harpers–of the Pictorial History’s 1,000+ illustrations, just over a dozen contained any African-Americans, and only three images referenced slavery (possibly more, depending on what constitutes as a reference). Yet Walker’s annotations do the exact opposite of what we would expect of a marginal note, confounding, rather than enhancing, the narrative of the original woodcuts. Her figures sometimes mask out the entirety of the original subject. Other times, they re-shape the original narrative. Some even interact with, react to, or participate in the events portrayed.

Her annotations are allusive; neither side in the conflict is framed as having the moral high ground. In one instance, a silhouette seems brutally torn apart by the cannon-fire from the Union artillery in the original woodcut. In another, Union troops triumphantly march in parade-formation into Alexandria, Virginia, greeted by cheering figures, but Walker inserts figures of her own in the foreground; one shakes its fist at the sky in what might be exasperation or rage. Another seems to try to scurry away and hide.

Kara Walker, Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp, courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art

These images aren’t flippantly dismissive of the many lives that were indeed lost during the Civil War, rather, they challenge the visual narrative of the conflict as presented by Harpers. Some of its depictions of African-Americans (such as Cotton Hordes in a Southern Swamp) stoop to cruel and abusively dehumanizing caricature.   This is especially disconcerting when weighed against the book’s claim in its preface (which appeared in both volumes) of authenticity and impartiality. For reference, incidentally, featured in this exhibit are an original copy of the 1866 Harpers text and a screen which allows us to compare Walker’s annotations with the original illustrations from which they derive.

One should enter this show ready to be unsettled and at times disoriented. Yet we can always confidently approach Kara Walker’s work assured that she’ll have synthesized both fine craftsmanship with a well-thought out concept, reminding us along the way of the sad ironies so tragically present in America’s history. And her work has continued relevance– competing political narratives vocalize ever more shrilly in print and electronic media, but Walker’s Annotated History suggests we not accept any unscrutinized narrative, de facto, as truth’s final word.

Toledo Museum of Art    Through October 22, 2017

 

Abstraction @ David Klein Gallery

Group Exhibition: Gisela Colon, Jeff Colson, Brad Howe, Heather Gwen Martin, Hugo McCloud, Ruth Pastine, Matt Wedel, Patrick Wilson

Who introduced abstract painting to Western culture? Today, Kandinsky is given credit as the father of abstract painting as early as 1910, with first a watercolor, then on canvas, but he had a manifesto in which he wrote about abstraction in 1909. Personally, I think abstraction will be in our art vocabulary for years to come, synonymous with words like cubism, impressionism and realism. David Klein Gallery has an exhibition of eight artists from various parts of the country that opened March 18, 2017, representing both paintings and sculptures. On the Road: American Abstraction, surveys artists from other parts of the country, providing the Detroit audience with abstract sensibilities on both the east and west coast, as well as work from the Midwest.

Hugo McCloud, Speechless Conversations, 2016, Aluminum Foil, Aluminum coating, Oil Paint, 79 x 98″

The work that grabbed most of my attention was the large red field abstraction by native Californian Hugo McCloud, who now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. The horizontal diptych fuses unconventional materials, along with woodblock printing, where he creates a rich surface that reflects a type of urban decay. The rich surface contains a large variety of under painting both in terms of shape and color. Self-taught with a background in industrial design, he says in a statement to artnet, “All of my work is kind of process oriented. When I had a desire to go into the fine art realm,” he explained, “I didn’t really have an understanding of how to work on canvas or use brushes and traditional art making tools. That wasn’t really my foundation.” McCloud stretches his canvas out on the floor, sanding, marking, all driven intuitively by his desire to explore and uncover his personal aesthetic.

Gisela Colon, Skewed Square Glo-Pod, 2013, Blow-Molded Acrylic, 60 x 42 x 12″

On the other end of the abstract spectrum is the work of Gisela Colon, raised in Puerto Rico where she completed her undergraduate work at the University of Puerto Rico, and her JD from Southwestern University of Law, in Los Angles where she now resides. Her earlier work was acrylic over wood constructions, painted with an automotive lacquer, but here in this piece at the David Klein Gallery Irregular Rectangle Glo-Pod she has turned to the technique of blow-molding that uses sheets of colored acrylic. She calls that and subsequent pieces made without the use of paint ‘Glo-Pods’ due to what she deemed “a breakthrough in my use of materials that generated an internal self-generated glo without the use of paint.”Her work has been connected to the work of west coast artists interested in the properties of light and the nature of perception. To this writer, these sculptural objects have a focus that draws on the writings by Donald Judd and Robert Irwin from the 1960s. These ideas may have set up this minimalist approach to creating objects as sculptural reliefs using properties of light, technological elements and reductive forms that, in this case, attach themselves to the wall. The non-specific objects hover between painting a sculpture where light is emitted from within, creating a very contemporary piece of artwork designed to please.

Brad Howe, Soft, 2016, Stainless Steel, Urethane, 12 x 24 x 9″

These abstract planes take me back to Tony Smith, allied with the minimalist school, where he worked with simple geometrical forms combined on a three-dimensional grid, creating drama through simplicity and scale. Created by artist Brad Howe, from Stanford University, these relatively small folds of stainless steel are impeccably constructed with effort and thought, providing simple form and color with attention drawn to their edges.

Howe says, “If we are to engage in the project of self-edification, the evolution of self, the enterprise is tied to our imagination. As Richard Rorty indicates, imagination is bound by our vocabulary, and it is in the growth of vocabulary we should focus. Vocabulary is tied to experience, and it is in energized moments of exposure to strangeness that our vocabulary expands. Encountering strangeness stretches and expands our self-image and seeds the rich potential for our collective conversations.”

Given the amount of concern that sculptors give to scale, these pieces feel like models waiting to be fabricated forty times larger than these tabletop sizes.

Alison Saar, Janus, 10/10, 2004, 10 x 19″

In its second gallery space, the David Klein Gallery provides an intimate collection of works on paper that includes lithographs, woodcuts and etchings. Of particular note is Alison Saar’s hand-tinted paper etching, Janus, that provides an image depicting the two worlds of the same woman, one existing in severe pain, the other in solitude. The expression may resonate with many people, women and men alike who find life to have its existence varied in a dichotomy of emotions. Saar says, “It was really poignant to me, this idea that a work of art could, somehow, turn a page, or shed a light, or lead back to a source. And that’s one of the things that’s exciting about being an artist; that your work threads people to other places, and not necessarily in straight lines.”

A native of Los Angles, Alison Saar’s work is primarily figurative, often female, in various emotional states or physical expressiveness. She seems to find symbolic richness in found objects, often with a narrative that offers a metaphoric view of life’s possibilities.

The David Klein Gallery has a long history of representing a collection of Detroit artists living and working in the Detroit Metro area. In contrast, On the Road: American Abstraction, Christine Schefman, Director of Contemporary Art, draws on artists who are represented by galleries from New York to Los Angeles, providing thought on some new experience and provoking exposure to the Detroit art community.

David Klein Gallery   March 19 – April 22, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stella’s Flatland @ UMMA

Today, Frank Stella’s paintings (better described as sculptures, really) burst from the wall, exploding forcefully into our space. But it was Stella’s flat and austere Black Paintings created while he was still a student at Princeton that originally thrust him into the national spotlight. Through April 23, a modest but important ensemble of three lithographs recently gifted to the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) reminds us that before his paintings brazenly shattered the fourth wall, Stella was first and foremost the master of emphatically two-dimensional canvasses thoroughly unburdened by any adherence to illusionistic space.

Frank Stella (American, born 1936), Lac Laronge IV, 1969, Acrylic on unprimed canvas. Toledo Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey. ©Frank Stella. 1972.4

Stella’s meteoric rise began when, as a graduate fresh out of Princeton, his work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art’s Sixteen Americans exhibition in 1959. During the 1960s, Stella’s work adhered to the flat aesthetic of his Black Paintings, though he began experimenting with radically unconventional canvas shapes. Among these were his whimsical Notched-N paintings, canvasses which defied the centuries-old conception of painting as illusionistic and necessarily bound to the confines of a rectilinear surface. His stacked chevrons of muted color bands are never confined by any frame, blurring the boundary between painting and sculpture. In 1967, Stella began a famous collaboration with printmaker Kenneth Tyler, founder of the (then) Los Angeles based Gemini Studio, and Stella began to transpose his paintings into lithography.

Frank Stella, Empress of India II, from Notched-V series, 1968, lithograph on paper. Gift of Marsha L. Vinson and Marvin Rotman, 2014/2.19

It was one of many collaborations for Tyler, who also worked with 20th century art-world heavyweights such as Robert Motherwell, Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, and David Hockney. With Stella, Tyler produced a series of lithographs based on Stella’s Notched- Ns. Look for Empress of India II; it’s a diminutive print based on the majestic, sprawling, 18-foot Empress of India in the permanent collection of the MoMA. The three lithographs on view in the UMMA’s Corridor Gallery were produced in the first year of their lifelong collaboration (they worked together until Kenneth Tyler closed his studio in 2000).

Frank Stella, Ifala I, from Notched-V series, 1968, lithograph on paper. Gift of Marsha L. Vinson and Marvin Rotman, 2014/2.20

Initially, it’s difficult to be impressed by them, perhaps simply because as 21st century viewers, we might reflexively associate their crisp, geometric lines with computer-generated art—merely the photoshoped creations of easy copy-and-paste. But if we lean in close, we’ll see the subtle imperfections that betray the human touch. (Significantly, even Stella’s large geometric abstractions of the same era reveal marks of the human touch; lost in translation when reproduced in textbooks, in person we can see the subtle pencil lines that demark the separation between color borders.) The lithographs are also tactile; the ink rising from the page gently but unmistakably pushes out into our space; one lithograph even shows gentle signs of distress; an effect which doesn’t translate in digital reproduction.

Frank Stella, Quathlamba II, from Notched-V series 1968, lithograph on paper. Gift of Marsha L. Vinson and Marvin Rotman, 2014/2.21

Long after he had moved beyond his minimalism, Stella maintained his partnership with Tyler. Among the more famous (and audacious) of their later collaborative works was Stella’s series of loosely illustrative prints based on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. These intensely sculptural prints press out into viewer space, and– technically virtuosic– took years to produce.

Frank Stella (American, born 1936), La penna di hu, 1987-2009, Mixed media on etched magnesium, aluminum and fiberglass. Toledo Museum of Art. Museum purchase, by exchange. ©Frank Stella. 2014.104

Today, Stella’s works are, at least on first appearance, the complete antithesis of his minimalist abstractions of the 1960s. Take, for example, his playfully obnoxious La penna di hu (1987-2009), a recent work currently on view at the Toledo Art Museum. It’s sculptural in every sense, perhaps its only initial commonality with his paintings of the past being that it hangs on a wall. Yet, like Stella’s Notched-Ns, it nevertheless fights the notion that art should be illusory, and, in this respect, Stella’s oeuvre has remained strikingly consistent.

In comparison with his playfully sculptural three-dimensional collages, the works from Stella’s formative years as a minimalist artist perhaps seem weighted down by an austere solemnity, their meticulously calculated arrangements of shape and color eluding interpretation. But these serene, meditative works brazenly defied the notion of art as the conduit of illusion and narrative, and the three lithographs on view at the UMMA stand as historically important documentation of Stella’s celebrated early days as 1960s minimalist, emphatically the art world’s undisputed modernist master of Flatland.

Frank Stella, Lithographs, UMMA – April 23, 2017