Review: Subject and Object in the Art of Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka

Review: Subject and Object in the Art of Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka

Hamptons Art Hub, Art Reviews, June 2013

Art Review: Subject and Object in the art of Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka
by Gabrielle Selz

Art as an exchange on the theme of domestic life is at the heart of the new two-person show on view through June 22 at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in East Hampton. Because the two artists involved, Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka, are husband and wife, the exhibition “Still Life with Pots” offers insights into their visual dance, their evolving repartee of subject and object, perceiver and perceived.

Jonas Wood is a painter known for his vibrant, though skewed, perspectives of interiors that mix elements of decorative abstraction with figuration and still life. In the past his focus has been on the depictions of his everyday world: his child’s bedroom, a corner of his studio space, the family bathroom. In this show, however, he has zeroed in on the central framework of his life: his marriage.

In nine drawings and paintings done in materials varying from inks, colored pencils and graphite to oils and acrylic, Wood has portrayed the ceramic pots created by his wife, the artist Shio Kusaka. Thus Kusaka’s own art, and to a certain extent Kusaka’s vision, is the essential subject of the show.

Kusaka is recognized for her creations of elegant, minimalist forms that incorporate both fine porcelain and the unglazed technique of raku. The 17 vases and pots in the show range in size from 5” to 12”. They are slightly uneven vessels covered with white, grey and black glazes that manage to appear fragile and utilitarian, pristine and unpretentious, at the same time.

Geometry is at the heart of both Kusaka’s and Wood’s aesthetic. Kusaka uses lines, dots, grids, and of course shapes, to explore form. Then she clusters her spherical pots in groupings on the counter surface, creating an intricate design of corresponding volumes and weights. On the other hand, Wood plays with the geometry of combinations, the layering of patterns and objects within the contorted spatial orientation of his picture plane. And while the work of both these artists has a distinctively homespun quality, the charm of their subject matter and technique belies sophistication.

In the oil and acrylic painting, Still Life with Van Gogh Book, Wood expertly unites a multitude of components—the decorations on the rug are reminiscent of Matisse, the airy arrangement of the suburban scene recalls David Hockney—with a vivid yellow orchid that practically zings out of one of Kusaka’s pots and punctuates the canvas.

A few feet away, Kusaka’s Stripped 82 sits on the counter. Its oblong shape and glazed surface echo the plant holder, the hatching in the top left corner, and the coffee mug that her husband has depicted in the foreground of Still Life with Van Gough Book.

Whose work showed up in the other’s first is unimportant. What’s interesting is the way they both look at the same scene and take different elements away, the way they comment back-and-forth on each other’s way of looking.

Of course, when viewers see a show whose overriding image is a vase or a pot, many will think of the Italian 20th century painter Giorgio Morandi. Wood’s 5 Pots, another oil and acrylic painting, has the same simple composition of a Morandi still life, but while Morandi’s paintings were delicate studies done in subtle tones that invoked the solitude of objects, Wood’s 5 Pots is a bold and forthright painting, a fellowship of his wife’s pots displayed against a rich, royal blue backdrop.

Historically, still-life paintings—the paintings of objects without the human form—are depictions of ordinary life: vases full of flowers and bowls stuffed with fruit. But they can also be infused with symbolic significance. In his last Still Life, done in 1940, Paul Klee used the objects on a table to refer to the allegorical battle of death over life: he was dying at the time. And Picasso painted Still Life with Steer’s Skull, 1942, as a commentary on war during the years of Nazi occupied France.

By focusing on the depiction these solid, open-mouthed receptacles as both subject and object in their work, both Kusaka and Wood are showing us not just the everyday objects in their world or the grace of arranged geometry. Rather, they have landed on the central motif of their union, the symbol of the container.

In their work, the pots and vessels can be seen as a metaphor for the emotional container of marriage: a graceful yet sturdy vessel that holds within it the elements that make up their domestic life. A womblike receptacle created by Kusaka then enfolded and embraced within the frame of Wood’s picture. For that is what a marriage is, a container for a relationship or, in this case, the sublime duet of artists’ Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka working in a unique tandem dance.

BASIC FACTS: ”Jonas Wood & Shio Kusaka: Still Life with Pots” remains on view through June 22 at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, 87 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, NY 11937.

All images courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, New York and Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton.

Adam Stennett: Artist Survival Shack Gotham Gal

Adam Stennett: Artist Survival Shack Gotham Gal

Gotham Gal

Adam Stennett: Survival, Evasion, and Escape
By Joanne Wilson

Stennett built a 6.5 x 9.5 foot shack to live in and produce his work for a month.  The question being how to carve out time to make art while living and thriving.  He talked about how he came to NYC and worked like a dog in order to make enough money to spend a few years just focusing on his art.  Then the economy imploded and his ability to sell his art did too.  The gallery that represented him closed and he had to return to working instead of doing his work.  The question being, how do you survive as an artist?

His supplies were minimal.  He definitely thought about all aspects including the tick situation out east where the shack was built.  He did research and discovered that garlic and eucalyptus kept away deer and ticks.  The whole project was interesting. He spent some time listening to old radio recordings from WWII.

I am curious about the work that came from this month.  All of the work will be shown at Glenn Horowitz in East Hampton for the month of September. 

Adam Stennett:Artist Survival Shack Artinfo

Adam Stennett:Artist Survival Shack Artinfo

Art Info, In the Air: Art News and Gossip, July 2013

Peek Inside Adam Stennett’s Self-Sustaining Studio Shack at artMRKT Hamptons

As fairgoers were dropping their cars with the valet in front of the tent at artMRKT Hamptons, picking up vodka cocktails from men in silver face-masks, and heading inside to scope out the artworks while a couple of musicians performed live atop a red scissor-lift, a few hundred feet away, artist Adam Stennett was quietly arranging his canvases in a much smaller structure.

Stennett was part of the art fair as well, which was being held at the Bridgehampton Historical Society, but his work, “Artist Survival Shack: 96 Hour Test Run” (2013), presented by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, was a feat of endurance that was not as easy to acquire as a photograph of a beach scene.

There was very little art fair buzz in his shed, and the only culinary treats were those that he had brought in for himself for his stint in the shack. The four-day endurance performance is preparation for month-long stay in the shack that he will perform in August, which will be followed by a show at Glenn Horowitz in September.

Here is a glimpse of Stennett in his shack, with his dried poppies (subjects for painting, of course), worming handbook, and small herb garden. And if you want something to take away from the exhibition, drop in at Glenn Horowitz’s booth, where you can pick up a tin of sardines or a bottle of water — mementos from Stennet’s stay — for $100 a pop.

Adam Stennett’s “Artist Survival Shack: 96 Hour Test Run” — and artMRKT Hamptons — continues through July 14.

Review: Eyes Wide Squint, Todd Norsten at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller

Review: Eyes Wide Squint, Todd Norsten at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller

Blinnk, April 2013

Eyes Wide Squint

Todd Norsten: This Isn't How It Looks

Todd Norsten is a Minnesotan whose long visual arms have stretched across continents landing everywhere from The British Museum to the 2006 Whitney Biennial. And no wonder -- the twenty five neat rectangles on exhibit at Glenn Horowitz are a sublime mash up of art and artifice.

Norsten paints in a hybrid of the trompe l'oeil tradition and the paintings here -- cheeky, subversive and oddly sentimental -- will take you completely by surprise. Invoking a sort of non-compliant formalism in these complex works, it's clear that Norsten -- despite what it looks like at first glance -- revels in the tenets of modernism and post-modernism. His mostly minimal imagery is possessed by a sumptuousness that is based as much in the process of painting as it is in linguistics. The painterly seductions are lucid but elusive, bouncing from content that is crisp and cunning to a methodology that employs a jaw-dropping level of craftsmanship. Look closely, because the appearance of casualness here is a ruse. What seems to be a crisscrossing field of strapping tape is not. It's painted by hand and it just looks uncannily like strapping tape (with a few scatological bits of dust that are actual dust as opposed to dust simulacra...). I don't know -- call me seduced -- at this point I could be convinced of just about anything. These works are that surprising. The paintings are cool and white, with content that bounces between jokily flatfooted text to variously cunning or surreptitious visual antics and painterly invention. Celebrating a broad swath of contradictions, idioms slam against one another as they collide with the picture space in a frisky, mind-against-matter tumult. Norsten pushes paint around, too, with joyfulness -- often slathering sticky fields of pigment over the face of what looks like a finished painting or troweling it across the surface like so much grout. He sometimes bullies the paintings and other times his approach is gentle, even salacious. His reverence for fine art is most manifest here. So -- this is where paradox went. While the act of counterfeiting strapping tape, rubber stamp impressions and commercial fonts is fascinating enough, Norsten is working in the service of a larger concept. Taken altogether, the conversation begins with issues of authenticity, ending somewhere in the realm of what exactly is painting now? If Norsten were a performer he'd be Andy Kaufman, the artful and duplicitous satirist of the 1970s and 80s, whose puzzling comedic exploits continue to intrigue. I saw Kaufman in 1979 at Harrah's in Reno, in a vast dinner theater of red velvet, surf 'n turf and booze, and that performance remains one of the most captivating, unsettling and obtuse events in my memory.  He emerged on stage as one of his alter-egos, a sleazy, incompetent lounge act who jumped rope, pounded congas, paused, sang poorly, paused again. The audience laughed nervously, shifting in their seats. The show went on (and on) to what soon was a silent crowd. Suddenly -- a piercing stage light illuminated Kaufman and in a single motion he tore off his clothes revealing another alter-ego, this one dressed in a rhinestone-encrusted white suit, shiny shoes and bell-bottoms. He picked up a microphone and became -- and I mean became -- Elvis. It was extraordinary. Strobes flashed back and forth as he shimmied and shook, crooning with the voice of an angel. The thunder-struck audience went wild with applause. It was a non-sequitur of spectacular proportions. Not such strange bedfellows, Andy Kaufman and Todd Norsten. Both artists trade on authenticity in a way that is beguiling, elliptical, a little preposterous and filled with incongruity. And that incongruity translates into subject matter. Norsten converts our ubiquitous blue tape (below) into a verb. It's not painter's tape -- it's painted to look exactly like painter's tape -- and I think it's fair to say that the viewer's apprehension of that fact becomes a part of the painting. It's not unlike the way Kaufman inhabited his alter-ego, Tony Clifton, when he was transformed into Elvis. (To be clear, Andy Kaufman was pretending to be Tony Clifton, but Tony Clifton wasn't pretending to be Elvis. The manifestation of Elvis almost seemed to be coming from a third party -- or from Elvis himself. In that way, it was different from an impersonation. It was Elvis. Or, at least it felt that way). In Norsten's methodology, we experience the opposite of a xerox of a xerox of a xerox -- there's something alive and in person in this transformative work, and it seems to be happening right before our eyes.   Both artists beg the question: where is the art located? Is it in the language, the obfuscation, the sleight of hand, the facility? Like Kaufman, Norsten's craftsmanship provides a road map that walks the viewer into the broader content -- an endorsement, of sorts, that legitimizes the work. But after thinking about the uncanny nature of the paintings I couldn't help wondering -- what if it really is strapping tape? Sort of like, what if Elvis really isn't dead? If Norsten was pretending that actual strapping tape was a tour de force paint job and, in fact, it really was strapping tape, how would the art and all of the ramifications related to it, change? In other words, where do we locate the art?

Dan’s Hamptons: Billy Sullivan & Lucy Winton

Dan’s Hamptons: Billy Sullivan & Lucy Winton

Dan's Hamptons, December 12, 2013

Specializing in manuscripts, first editions, rare books and archival material, Glenn Horowitz Bookseller also publishes works like Birds, a limited edition of bird drawings by internationally-known artist Billy Sullivan with an essay by conservationist Margaret Atwood. Which makes perfect sense because the current art exhibition features those very same drawings by Sullivan. Also in the show are works by Lucy Winton, designated. "Creatures". Coincidentally or not, both artistsuse a common medium and subject matter (animals/birds), albeit stylized in different ways, but dramatic just the same.

BLINNK: Billy Sullivan at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

BLINNK: Billy Sullivan at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

Blinnk, November 2012

Bird Notes

Billy Sullivan: Bird Drawings

Since the early 1990s, artist Billy Sullivan has been drawing the birds that frequent his East Hampton backyard. Currently on view at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, also in East Hampton, are selected drawings from over three decades of Sullivan's nuanced line, keen observation and his quick and fluent hand.

Sullivan's mellifluous lines and inky swashes of brush reveal more than the empirical -- they are meditations on being and birdness, flight and stasis and persona, disposition and anima.

His imagery moves across the page quickly, multiplying with all the briskness of flocks of birds in flight. The drawings are fleeting and minimal, and yet their conveyance of the nature of all things bird is really quite astonishing.

Gallery director Jess Frost sat down with me last week to share some thoughts on the exhibit, which features works dating from 1990 to three drawings completed the weekend before the show opened.

"The way the birds move around the page, they're almost musical," said Frost. Indeed, Sullivan's methodology requires him to apprehend the birds almost instantaneously.

"Some of them are like field drawings," Frost continued, "they're all done from life. Billy sits at his dining room table in front of a picture window. All the works are titled by date and time, so you can tell that certain birds arrive seasonally."

This body of work, you might say, is in direct opposition to Sullivan's acclaimed figurative paintings, which are drawn from his own photography and photographic archives. The paintings are diaristic, crisp and sexy, transforming the humble snapshot into poetic characterizations that depict the life and times of Sullivan, his famed cadre and the people and things in his orbit.
In his photography, a renown body of work in its own right, Sullivan has chronicled some 45 years of art world shenanigans that he experienced firsthand, beginning with those halcyon days at Max's Kansas City beginning in the late 1960s. Lauded for the incisive photographic installation he mounted in Day for Night: The 2006 Whitney Biennial, Sullivan's body of photographic works bounce from sun drenched beach parties to matter-of-fact nudes and the clubs, cocktails and camp of the 1970s and 80s.

Like the bird drawings, the imagery contained within his portraits and still lifes reveals as much about the artist as it does his subjects. Sullivan's hand is smart and honest, without a touch of cynicism. An inventive and buoyant colorist, the bird drawings -- devoid of color -- reveal that gentle bullfighter within the artist.

Accompanying the exhibition a limited edition book, BIRDS, with text by author, birder and conservationist, the famed Margaret Atwood and Sullivan's drawings. BIRDS is available for purchase through Glenn Horowitz Bookseller

On the evolution of both the exhibit and the book, Frost recalled her delight when the famed author agreed to include her 2010 essay on bird conservation, originally published in The Guardian, in the book.

BLINNK: Lucy Winton at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

BLINNK: Lucy Winton at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

Blinnk, December 2012

Hybrids and Homilies

Lucy Winton: Creatures

It's not often that I'm taken by surprise. It's not that I can't be impressed -- lots of things impress me. But true surprise is different. Picasso's Mosqueteros at Gagosian, 2009 -- that surprised me. New Zealand's Marmite shortage -- big surprise. An art fair in Atlantic, somewhere between surprise and fatigue. Not that surprise in and of itself is key to art making -- not by a long shot. But after a long time of looking and thinking about art, being truly surprised is a little like falling in love.

Enter Lucy Winton -- surprise, surprise, surprise.

Now on view at Glenn Horowitz, Lucy Winton: Creatures, a small group of paintings on paper that are seductive, sentimental, cheeky and fresh. This is the real thing -- a must see. Lucy Winton seems to do most of her thinking at the cusp of imagination, commingling the romance of animal consciousness with her own psyche, and there she pulls out quite a plum. Diving into the rabbit hole without a hint of irony, Winton dabbles in the unheimlich (Ger., uncanny) and in social taboos, absurdism and territories unknown from the past, future and present tenses.

Her paintings are intimate and luxurious, moody and gothic, and they bring to mind the likes of Poe, Lewis Carroll and Flannery O'Connor. For the artist, whose influences run the gamut from children's literature to Edwin Landseer and Jorg Immendorf, there is a special power in the creatures, places and things that populate her world, a parallel universe of visual non sequiturs filled with rich metaphors and a sweeping and poetic mindfulness.

In After War, Snow, the artist snuggles with doe-eyed cattle that lounge among her fleshy brushwork and velvet fields of gray. Little mountains of snow fall on this softness like errant globs from another world, laying across the composition with little regard for reality. Her paint application here is subdued, evoking the Spartan curves and naturalism of Georgia O'Keefe. And then -- without warning -- Winton fiercely effects a sort of painterly dismount in which she suddenly channels the hand of Frans Hals or John Singer Sargent and their swashbuckling strokes of pigment. She swirls over broad expanses, canoodling with her brushes among fleeing rabbits and bursting star shapes, tree trunks and stairways. Gliding her brush across swaths of Yupo paper, Winton advances into breathtaking passages of pure paint. Her brushwork is frisky and deliciously wicked, as if there's alchemy in each stroke. If you know the feel of a paint-saturated brush, you're right there with her -- skating across the icy translucence of this waxy white geography.

Recently, Lucy Winton and I exchanged a few thoughts on content, context and the chimerical in her paintings:
Are there specific references to the snow in your work?

My snow is definitely a reference to Jorg Immendorf's Cafe Deutschland, The Wizard of Oz snowfall scene, and the calming -- even opiate -- feeling I get from that. I also grew up in very snowy Minnesota.

There seem to be elements of Shamanism in your work, and a sort of luxurious communion with animal spirits.

I fantasize about communing with unreachable when I paint me sneaking up on a deer or lion, I really get pleasure. That pleasure is spiritual."

Lurking within these dramas, it also seems there are the things of social taboos, repressed memory, dreams and the uncanny, or unheimlich, experiences, whether actual or intuited. In Freud's 1919 landmark essay, The Uncanny, he talks about the uncanny experience as: 

"...that class of the frightening which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar."
Winton's examination of the unheimlich is far less dark than Freud's, but the idea of a parallel universe where the unfamiliar is familiar again, is an irresistible connection. But, I digress. Winton's images and the animal consciousness they evoke are spectacularly weird and wonderful. At the same time, they seem to come from our shared childhoods or deep inside some collective unconscious.

I lived in India for about six months a long time ago. I have definitely referenced one Brahman cow eye about 6 times -- same darn eye over and over.

Your works seem to have a floating narrative that is familiar but fleeting. Are you inspired by specific works of literature?

Mostly I am inspired by children's book illustrations -- sometimes regardless of the narrative. One weird personality marker I have is that I am inappropriately religious, indecisively so...and from an atheist, humanist background. That can leak out in my work.

The idea that (on top of everything else) part of Lucy Winton's visual psychology is driven by wanton religiosity -- makes me like the work even more.

"The compulsion to erode boundaries between herself and
other creatures is one of Winton's great creative strengths."

-April Gornick, BOMB, Summer, 2012

Art in America reviews Paula Hayes: Drawings and Objects at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

Art in America reviews Paula Hayes: Drawings and Objects at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton

Art in American, Reviews, October 2012

Paula Hayes Drawings and Objects at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in East Hampton
By Matthew Nichols

New York-based artist Paula Hayes is sometimes credited with stimulating the recent revival of terrariums. She has arranged living plants in handblown glass vessels since 2003, long before terrariums gained favor among DIY types or were mass-marketed by stores like West Elm. In our current climate of ecological crisis, the widespread embrace of this trend may reflect a broader desire to nurture and protect the environment. While Hayes seems to share these concerns (she is also a prolific garden designer), much of her work tends to frame or filter the natural world in unexpected ways, ultimately foregrounding our deeply mediated relationship to it.

Hayes recently garnered attention for the lush botanical sculptures she installed in the lobbies of MoMA (2010) and Lever House (2011). But plants were used sparingly in her show at Glenn Horowitz, and most of them grew in small, translucent silicone pots that were clustered into pairs or trios throughout the gallery. Working with fabricators, Hayes has cast these flexible containers (also since 2003) to accommodate expanding root systems, and their slouching, bulbous forms look like functional cousins to Hans Arp's sculptures. Several epiphytes (or "air plants"), which absorb necessary moisture from the atmosphere, were tucked into linked pockets of crocheted steel thread that dangled from a suspended tree branch in the center of the gallery. Though presented here as an untitled mobile (2012), some of the plant-filled pouches can be detached from the branch and worn as necklaces.

Among the five glass terrariums on view, only one was planted with greenery. The others belong to a series of "Crystal Gardens" that Hayes began making in 2009. Each of these open orbs contains a bed of sand mingled with glitter, glass beads, broken bits of mirror or fluorescent aquarium gravel. Hayes nestles larger chunks of minerals and crystals into these grounds, creating scintillating displays of geologic riches. Especially when viewed through the distorting lens of the handblown glass, the artful arrangements of inert rocks can appear weirdly fertile and teeming with life.

The show's general theme of displaced nature extended to a 2012 field recording of chirping crickets, singing birds and other ambient sounds that pervaded the gallery at low volume. But the speakers were hidden beneath a pile of driftwood that barely registered as sculpture. A more compelling context came from six large drawings that Hayes executed between 1992 and 1994, at the start of her career, deploying ink, glitter and collaged bits of paper and fabric on mostly blank grounds. The works all combine various abstract marks with whimsical renderings of mountains, trees and shooting stars, plus scrawled fragments of Emily Dickinson's poetry. These loose and spirited drawings initially seem far removed from the careful calibration that Hayes now brings to her terrariums and other living sculptures, but they conjure interior landscapes that may have found another home in the artist's sheltered ecosystems.

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