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Showing posts from March, 2013

At SF MOMA

While at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art last Monday, I saw good things and bad things. Bad: the room of mainly British art from the last twenty years (above), in a room stuffed with Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jenny Saville, and some others. Also bad: painting from the 80s, with the exception of Basquiat:


There's a big argument to be had here, but my patience was worn thin this time with work that I've tolerated more in the past, and I think it was because of the tedious unseriousness of the work, particularly in the painting of LaSalle, Clemente, Schnabel, and others. The slapdash nature of their whole enterprise just seemed unacceptable after looking at rooms with pictures by artists like Diebenkorn and Thiebaud (joky, but also serious):

And a classic Philip Guston abstract painting:

Even the Piet Mondrian picture, unfinished at his death, was fascinating because it still had the tape that he applied to the canvas and moved around to fix the composition:

And a set …

Back in San Francisco

I'm back in San Francisco for four days, with esposa-escritora Patty who has some readings here and in Chico this week. On Sunday the 24th, we were at the Portuguese Artist Colony on Sutter Street, for a reading and live writing event:


"Live writing" means that audience members voted to select a writing prompt, and then the four invited authors were given ten minutes to write something, which they then read back to the audience, who voted again on which one they liked best.


That last picture shows the four writers writing, while the girl on the right sang some light hip hop songs to keep the audience entertained in the meanwhile. Three of the four drafts were actually pretty good, considering the conditions of writing. Naturally I'm biased, but Patty's was still the best, as I indicated on my voting slip:


Hers didn't win, but it was a fun thing to do. And in the second half of the evening, she read from The Temple of Air, held people spellbound as usual, and…

A Painting by Ravenna Taylor

This painting by artist Ravenna Taylor is currently part of an online exhibition of her work, which you can see here. In an exchange of comments via Facebook, Ravenna mentioned that a lot of people liked her older work better, so I decided to do an experiment: I went to the online gallery, looked through the images on show without looking at any dates or titles, and chose the first few that caught me eye. It turned out that in each case, I was drawn to the new work.

There are many things I like about this painting. I like the way it plays with geometric abstraction, but loosely -- nothing is drawn with a ruler, nothing is rigid or too straight, all is marked out by the patient movement of a hand and a brush, putting down mark after mark. It's possible that the idea or the selection of shapes starts out planned, but it doesn't look that way in the execution. It all looks like the artist was alive to how putting one shape against another shape might change the balance of the co…

Six of the Best, Part 25: Kevin Swallow

Part 25 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (previous interviews: 123456789101112,13,14151617181920212223, 24). Kevin Swallow is a Chicago painter and printmaker who works in several subjects at once, mainly depicting the urban landscape (I have to confess that I own one of his screenprints). If you are in Chicago on March 22nd, you can see Kevin's work at an open studio event in the Cornelia Arts Building, on Chicago's north side.


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Kevin Swallow: I spend most of my time painting. For a long time I used acrylics and recently started using oils. I also work in photography and mixed media/screen prints.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Kevin Swallow: I typically work on a few things at once which are usually part of a series. This allows me to create more harmony between each piece…

My First Printmaking Class

My first printmaking class was in London in October 1995. It was in the studio of a great German printmaker called Thomas Gosebruch, which was on the second floor of a warehouse building next to King’s Cross railway station. There was no heating in the building, but thanks to England’s mild climate it never got too cold in there. It was an eight week introductory course to intaglio etching, covering the following techniques: drypoint, hard ground, soft ground, traditional and non-toxic aquatint, and photoetching. There were three other people in the class: an artist who had a studio in the same building; and a couple who came from south London and just did the course out of interest. I seem to remember they got into an argument with Thomas about money after about five weeks, and they dropped out. The studio was in a room about 12 feet wide and 24 feet long, with windows on one side that looked straight across to another wall of warehouse windows. I can still remember exactly how the sp…

Six of the Best, Part 24: Svava Thordis Juliusson

Part 24 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (previous interviews: 123456789101112,13,141516171819202122, 23). Svava Thordis Juliusson is a Canadian artist who takes unprepossessing objects, and makes them into installations and sculptures that magically discover their hidden sensuous capacities. You can see her a picture of her studio, too, at the art blog Hyperallergic.



PH: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?

STJ: Since 2008, I have been working primarily with materials that are composed of plastic, various sizes and colors of cable ties, clothing tags, fencing and found plastic. 
The cable tie - an ordinary, utilitarian object - was the original catalyst and soon after it became the building block for constructing singular objects and/or for connecting one thing to another within installations. Because the material, in its original context, is not precious, I approac…

My First Oil Painting

The first painting I made with oils was probably when I was fourteen years old. It was on a piece of A4 (=US letter size) canvas paper, and it was a pointillist-style picture of the sea, painted from the cliff top near Whitley Bay in the northeast of England where I lived.

I don’t remember where the picture ended up, but I do remember that the paints were in small tubes inside a wooden box. I got them from the daughter of an old gentleman who was an amateur artist with lots of materials that his family got rid of after he died. The paints were in an ancient balsa wood box with a small clasp, that gave off a smell like old vinyl records when you opened it. I got some brushes and a traditional painting palette, too—the kind with a thumbhole so that it rests against your forearm.

I can even still remember the colours I used in the painting: ochre, ultramarine, and a cyan colour that I mixed from pthalo blue and white. Why do I remember that? I don’t know. It was not a good painting, not…