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Nicole Eisenman, Woodcuts, Etchings, Lithographs and Monotypes at LEO KOENIG

June 5, 2012

James Kalm dodges into the Leo Koenig Gallery, and captures some video of the opening of Nicole Eisenman: Woodcuts, Etchings, Lithographs and Monotypes. Though Eisenman has received extensive critical attention for her painting, this show reveals an abiding attachment and pursuit of, the grand tradition of classic printmaking. While the monotypes display a very painterly sensibility. Eisenman’s etchings and lithographs highlight the artists wonderful facility with linen and tone.

Dana Schutz Piano in the Rain at FRIEDRICH PETZEL GALLERY

May 14, 2012

James Kalm posted one of his first reports covering a Dana Schutz show. Schutz is a favorite among the New York painting community, and because with this show she begins working with a new gallery, Friedrich Petzel, your reporter decided to stick with the precedent and cover “Piano in the Rain”. With this exhibition, the artist appears to be thinning down her paint, exercising a more virtuosic and slippery brush stroke, and striving for a fresher and more spontaneous style. Melding a goofy figuration with painterly abstraction, viewers are given a choice to appreciate the narrative or the process with which these pictures are fabricated.

Terry Winters Cricket Music and Tessellation Figures at Matthew Marks

May 2, 2012

According to James Kalm, Terry Winters has been a respected presence on the New York painting scene for decades now. His latest show ” Cricket Music and Tessellation Figures” is the first major presentation of new works since 2008. These pictures reveal a poetic application of the geometric concept of a gridded plane, it permutations through knotting and folding and the fragmentation of image and its re-composition.

Forrest Bess at CHRISTIE’S and the WHITNEY MUSEUM

April 19, 2012

James Kalm presents this program for hard-core Forrest Bess fans only. As one of the most mythic and eccentric American painters of the Twentieth Century, Forrest Bess (1911-1977) exerts a force over contemporary art that is hard to measure. Working in isolation and on a small scale, he was nonetheless able to garner the attentions of critical and art world heavyweights. With his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial of 2012, in an installation curated by Robert Gober, and the presentation of a cache of mostly late paintings from Texas, this program records over twenty-six minutes of paintings, possibly documenting twenty-five percent of his life’s output.

The Outsider Art Fair 2012

April 8, 2012

As a big fan of “Outsider Art” James Kalm waits in anticipation for the annual Outsider Art Fair. This fair features dozens of regional and international galleries and institutions that concentrate on promoting the work of the marginalized and voiceless. While the New York art scene is glutted with massive museum shows purporting to present the “best and latest” in contemporary art, and despite the differences in production and promotion budgets, there is a level of “authentic” creativity that the “outsiders” possess that can’t be imitated by the commercial art world establishment. This program includes a short interview with Rakien Nomura from the RHD Outside In Gallery.

A New Vision of a Visionary Fisherman

March 25, 2012

                                                                                                                                                       Christieís Images, Ltd.

“Chinquapin, 1967” by Forrest Bess shows how he was influenced by his surroundings on the Gulf of Mexico. More Photos »


The art of Forrest Bess (1911-77), like that of Vincent van Gogh, may be in danger of being overtaken by his life story. Especially now, when the work of this eccentric visionary painter — who spent the bulk of his maturity as a fisherman on the Gulf of Mexico, living on a spit of Texas beach — is having an especially intense New York moment.

The current Whitney Biennial includes a show within a show of 11 Bess paintings, organized by the sculptor Robert Gober; it proffers Bess as a kind of foundational artist of our time. And an additional 40 of his paintings can be seen in “A Tribute to Forrest Bess,” an exhibition at Christie’s that is occasioned by a private sale of those works for a single seller. (It makes for the rather uneasy sight of an auction house acting like a commercial gallery handling what is tantamount to an artist’s estate.)

The facts of Bess’s life are nothing if not sensational. They include isolation, poverty, recurring visions — Bess said that he merely copied motifs that had appeared to him in dreams since childhood — and even self-mutilation. In the late 1950s, convinced that uniting the male and female sides of his personality would guarantee immortality, Bess attempted to turn himself into what he called a “pseudo-hermaphrodite” through two acts of painful self-surgery that yielded a small vaginalike opening at the base of his penis.

But as with van Gogh’s work, Bess’s small, intensely personal quasi abstractions seem designed to withstand the onslaught of biography. The best of them, made from 1946 to 1970, are initially unimposing yet can rivet the eye with their roiled surfaces, saturated colors and combinations of odd symbols or distilled evocations of the natural world.

Equally important is the way Bess’s works reshape art history. Like Myron Stout, Steve Wheeler and Alice Trumbull Mason, who also favored small size and resonant forms, Bess expands our understanding of the ascendancy of American painting in the 1940s and ’50s far beyond the wall-size canvases of the usual Abstract Expressionist suspects.

There has not been so much of Bess’s work on view in New York since 1988, when Hirschl & Adler Modern mounted a show of 61 paintings. And both the Whitney and Christie’s displays include fascinating, if sometimes unsettling, ancillary information.

At the Whitney, Mr. Gober has juxtaposed the paintings with Bess’s correspondence with New York art world figures like the art historian Meyer Schapiro and Betty Parsons, the leading dealer of the Abstract Expressionists. Parsons gave Bess six solo shows from 1951 to 1967, which demonstrates the extent to which this outsider was also very much an insider, as driven to exhibit his work as any painter in a downtown loft. There are also photographs of the self-surgery.

At Christie’s “Forrest Bess: Key to the Riddle,” a marvelous 48-minute film completed in 1998 by Chuck Smith, working with the photographer Ari Marcopoulos, is being screened continuously, if not to best effect, on a small monitor. In this film you hear from numerous affectionate and understanding friends and relatives who knew Bess intimately, as well as from interested New Yorkers. These include Schapiro, the Buddhist writer Robert Thurman and John Yau, a critic who wrote an essential essay for the catalog for the Hirschl & Adler Modern show.

Mr. Thurman floats the thesis that, from a Buddhist perspective, Bess was “maybe someone who had been a yogi in a former life.” He notes that a yogi’s role is to “yoke your body and being to your view of life,” calling Bess’s body “his supreme work of art.”

 Read more at:  Forrest Bess Paintings at Christie’s and Whitney Biennial

Jonathan Lasker Early Works at CHEIM & READ

March 13, 2012

Jonathan Lasker has forged one of the most recognizable and respected painting careers within the New York Scene. His well wrought abstractions are unmistakably unique. This exhibition of “Early Works” gives viewers a chance to view the paintings that were the genesis of his oeuvre, and to see the arch of their development.