Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on March 6, 2014 of Dan Christensen: Sprays and Stains, an exhibition consisting of the innovative abstract paintings Christensen created from the late 1960s until his death in 2007 that are characterized by their vibrant and unique optical effects. In the late 1960s, at a time when other artists focused on conceptual issues or returned to representation, Christensen received national recognition for extending modernist inquiries into the nature of painting. In the decades that followed, he ceaselessly took chances and risks, pushing the limits of painting into new terrain. Never restricting himself to a particular idiom, he drew from both the gestural methods of Abstract Expressionism and the lucidity and lyricism of Color Field painting, while developing distinctive and unusual surfaces through his exploration of new mediums.
One of the first artists to use the spray gun, Chiristensen initially employed this means to produce stacked “spray loop” paintings that follow a Minimalist modular format, as in Times Square (1967) and Bosco (1968). About the same time, he loosened control in works such as Chevade (1968) and O (1968), achieving a calligraphic fluency in which each quality of the moving and intersecting lines holds our interest across large canvas surfaces. In the 1970s, Christensen’s art expanded in several directions. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he also began to experiment with paint staining. Stapling an unstretched canvas to a carpeted floor, he rolled his paint to create an overall ground, sometimes layering colors on top of each other to produce a desired hue. Then using a stick, brush, or turkey baster, he created “drawings” or frameworks around which he allowed the paint to flow further. With their varied dynamics of shape and tone, these works evoke a range of organic, musical, and landscape allusions while remaining within the bounds of a pure modernist endeavor. The critic and poet John Ashbery described the color in them as smoldering and sensuous, observing that they force the eye to “recognize distinctions among areas of color, which at first have strong family resemblances and only somewhat later turn out to be mavericks that could just as easily be at odds with each other.”
Christensen returned to the spray gun at intervals during the rest of his career, using it with confident fluidity and inventiveness. He wound the color with breathtaking speed to produce mesmerizing mandalas in works such as Dolan (1988) and Camillo (1989), while in paintings such as Swing Street (2001), he combined spray and stain to produce more jazzy, fantasy-laden images. Greneda (2005), Night Garden II (2005), created by Christensen in his last years, break again into new territory, their dazzling color and light making them alive with electrical charge.
In an article of 2009 in Linea, Ronnie Landfield stated that “Christensen’s foremost achievement as an artist was his ability to create consistently meaningful and high quality art while continually evolving.” Christensen’s Sprays and Stains exemplify this trajectory, revealing his perpetual enthusiasm for new vocabulary, his mastery of challenging methods, and his willingness to shift gears, resulting in a body of work that is at once multi-dimensional and unified in its diverse range of inquiries.
Born in Cozad, Nebraska, in 1942, the son of a farmer and truck driver, Christensen chose to become an artist when, as a teenager, he saw the work of Jackson Pollock on a trip to Denver. After receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri, in 1964, he moved to New York City, where he became part of a dynamic period of exchange and experimentation in the art world. Within two years, he rose to fame, as part of a group of young artists who revived painting after a period in which minimalism prevailed. He maintained his dedication to new ways of expanding his artistic expression throughout a career, that was sadly cut short when he was 65 years old. Christensen received a National Endowment Grant in 1968 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969. His work has recently received critical and public attention in an exhibition organized in 2009 by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, held at the Kemper and at the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (2009-10).
Christensen’s paintings are in numerous public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Seattle Art Museum, and many others.
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on February 6, 2014, of Katherine Parker: chants/chance an exhibition and sale of new large-scale abstractions in which Parker considers the porous relationships that each of us has with our subconscious selves. Her vibrant many-layered works explore the amorphous and elusive nature of memory, reflected in fragments of truth that are visible, hidden, or reconfigured in the mind.
Parker begins her paintings within the framework of grids. Echoing the repetition of chants, these often draw her into a meditative state by their quiet lull. When elements of chance and the unexpected arise, she allows them to dictate the direction in which she proceeds. She states: “I seek resolution slowly through a balance of intention and discovery. In the process, I explore transparency and loss and the tension between the planned and the unpredictable.”
This exhibition includes two sets of paintings addressing slightly different themes. The first consists of paintings with closely related colors and precariously balanced, stacked forms. In them, large masses tend to hover, break up, or dissolve. Some appear weightless while others seem heavy and earthbound. For example, in Behind and Below, the variegated shades of red are similar, but a large pink form threatens to break off and float away. Another form, outlined in black, suggests a void or a missing shape.
In the second group, including Bodies at Rest, I Found It Here, and In the Margins, Parker uses layers of white and tinted color along with charcoal marks that form partially smudged grids. Other marks stubbornly take on importance, often setting the emotional tone for a painting. In the Margins is dominated by a massive, centrally placed white square. However, the interesting part of the painting is in the layered history located at its edges.
Although Parker is influenced by the attitude and rigor of the New York School, she strives for an expressive vision that is modest rather than sublime. She says, “My paintings are a recording of the quiet and personal—moments of everyday life filtered through the particular and profound.”
Parker received her B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. She has exhibited at the Queens College Art Center (solo show); the Jersey City Museum (solo show); the Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, New Jersey; P.S. 1 (MOMA), New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; the National Catholic Museum, New York; Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey; and the Noyes Museum, Oceanville, New Jersey. She has received fellowships from the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and Yaddo. She is represented in the collections of the Jersey City Museum, Trenton; New York University Law School; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Spanierman Modern, and paintings by Frank Wimberley and Stephen Pace that the gallery lent to the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge at Lincoln Center during Fashion Week, recently received attention in the Examiner.com, “the inside source for everything local.” In his article of September 11, 2012, Matt Semino wrote: “Cadle collaborated brilliantly with Spanierman Modern, a New York gallery noted for its collection of mid-twentieth century artists, using works by Stephen Pace and Frank Wimberley to appoint the lounge’s walls.” Semino stated how the works by the two artists added an “updated dimension to the elegant curvature of the room’s furniture.” The ways that the paintings enliven their surroundings can be seen in the photograph that appeared with the article, in which Pace’s Untitled (54-52) (1954) is on the left and Wimberley’s Accents Red (2008) is on the right.
This is the fifth Fashion Week lounge designed by Cadle, who has “legions of devoted clients and is known for his ability to create a timeless aesthetic by focusing on guest experience, comfort, and enjoyment, while visually adding a twist, surprise, or hint of the unexpected.” The paintings by Wimberley and Pace, two each, contributed to this experience, described as “opulence turned on its edge.”
We are pleased to share the following excerpt from Piri Halasz’s review of Frank Bowling: Recent Paintings, posted on her blog, (An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor’s Doorstep, on April 13, 2012.
The two shows at Spanierman (both through April 28) are “Frank Bowling: Recent Paintings” (at Spanierman Modern) and “Arthur B. Davies: Painter, Poet, Romancer & Mystic” (at Spanierman Gallery). This will be the third time in three years that I’ve written about Bowling, the first having been a lengthy review of his mini-retrospective here at Spanierman in September 2010, and the second, a review of the book about him by Mel Gooding, in October 2011. This time, the show consists of 24 medium-sized to very large paintings, all done in 2011 except for the largest, a multi-paneled “Girls in the City” (1991) that covers the entire east wall of the gallery. In fact, the whole fine show is Bowling in an expansive mood, with large, sweeping areas of paint, large pieces of canvas sometimes superimposed diagonally in the center of his paintings, and his characteristically neat, narrow rows of stitched and/or stapled of strips of canvas kept to a minimum, along the borders of some (but not all) of the paintings. “Bed in Memory of ‘Dry River Dan,’” a tall, narrow canvas, is classic in its simplicity, with vertical bands of red, purple and green-gold. “Julie McGee’s Flowers” is an all-green whorl of paint, with lots of dribbled gold in the center, plus a small, gilded round form shaped rather like a bottle-cap in the center, together with some paint-soaked bits of cloth. Sounds overly elaborate – but isn’t. The best painting in the show is the 12-foot-long “Girls in the City,” with each of its seven panels neatly & rigorously covered with broad, shiny & richly impastoed rows of reddish-golden-brown paint, and parts of its substructure the red of blood or fire.
Also see the review at www.pirihalasz.com.
Lisa N. Peters
Recently included in our exhibition, Fifteen Contemporary Artists, Frank Bowling is also being featured in several current and upcoming individual and group exhibitions. The solo shows consist of Frank Bowling: Recent Paintings, opening at Spanierman Modern on March 29 (view catalogue PDF), Frank Bowling: Poured Paintings, opening at Tate Britain on April 30, Frank Bowling: Recent Large Works, opening at Hales Gallery, London, on May 31, and Frank Bowling: Recent Small Works, opening at Chris Dyson Gallery, London, on July 6. A two-man show of the work of Bowling and Dennis DeCaires opened February 28 at the University of Glyndwr, in Wrexham, North Wales. Bowling is at the center of one the group exhibitions: Bowling’s Friends, opening at the Cello Factory, London, on May 23. This show situates Bowling among artists of a younger generation whose work he admires. The other group shows include Migrations, which opened January 31 at Tate Britain (this show explores the theme of migration from 1500 to the present, reflecting the range of the Tate Britain’s collections); British Design, 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum on March 31; and A Family Affair, opening at the Cello Factory on June 2. On October 12, 2012, during Bowling’s exhibition at the Tate Britain, the culture critic and writer Courtney Martin will conduct a public conversation with the artist. This will take place during Frieze week and will be held in the Clore Auditorium from noon to 1:30 pm.
Bowling’s shows, following the publication of Mel Gooding’s 2011 monograph on the artist and his many honors (including becoming the first black Royal Academician), give recognition to the richness of his art in its varied facets over many decades.
Bowling’s paintings reference many artistic sources. The legacy of Pollock is present in their dripped and splattered surfaces. There’s also a sense of Rothko’s shifting and resonant color that seems to hang in front of what is seen. Older associations can also be discerned, among them the sublime and radiant light in the art of Turner.
This is vividly apparent in 37528 (2008), a blazing and shimmering atmospheric image. Its feeling is both celestial and aquatic. The light is complex–a fiery glow, associated with masculine force, blended with a cooler haze, evoking the feminine. A mood results that is mixed, both emotive and contemplative. In this painting and others, canvas layers are stitched together, and edges have been cut with pinking shears, methods in which Bowling summons the memory of his mother, a seamstress who parlayed her talent at sewing dresses, hats, and Indian saris into a successful business. As a teenager, Bowling worked a route for his mother, taking orders for clothing and selling swatches and pattern books.
The light in Carriage (2006) is even more varied. A vivid pink shape emerges from the center of the field, recalling the maps of Africa that Bowling featured in his art in the late 1960s, but here the shape is distorted and amorphous. Is it suggestive of the tumult of hope and despair gripping Ethiopia and Somalia at the end of the last decade? Whether it is symbolic or not, the painting has the dynamic subtlety that characterizes Bowling’s work along with the craftsmanship that stemmed from his youthful experience, endowing it with authencity.
Lisa N. Peters
In Fifteen Contemporary Artists, which now fills our main gallery, the works are vibrant and personal, while their themes echo the art of the past. Among them, Elaine Grove’s Sound Weighs (2010) seems a cross between the welded steel sculpture of David Smith and the found object art of Marcel Duchamp. In the sculpture, Grove set a fluted “witch’s hat” gramophone (with a Thomas Edison label) on the center of a platform, while a scale is attached at its base. A bell with a cross-pull–once in a bell collection kept by the artist’s mother-in-law–is on the cover of an old incense burner.
The story emerges in the two barn hinges that look like sentinels, guarding the gramophone towering above them. Grove admits: “once there was a scale in the piece, I couldn’t help going into a symbolic level.” She found her Catholic upbringing emerging as well. The work seems to ask: What is the music that plays from a life in the balance? How do you measure music and sound waves (note the pun in the work’s title)? What does the spirit weigh? How do we weigh the small moments in life, casual encounters, small mistakes, every kindness? (The scale actually moves.)
Scale relationships are also a factor in the work: the small size of the forms in relation to the gramophone convey a sense of veneration for the inventions of the past, evoking a time of greater innocence (the iconic image on Victor Records of a dog hearing “his master’s voice” in a gramophone once said it all).