Saturday, May 16, 2020

214. Harold Redicliffe “Fourteen Paper Cups” } & Terry Bisson “Bears Discover Fire.”

Aunt Marie gave me Terry Bisson’s short story collection Bears Discover Fire; I must’ve read it soon after I saw Redicliffe’s “Fourteen Paper Cups” (1996) at the Pepper Gallery; on the back of the promotional postcard I wrote the titles of the stories I liked. I liked the collection’s titular story—it’s the only one I remember. The title is literal. Bears have discovered fire. “Fourteen Paper Cups” is a pretty literal title, too. Arranged on a red counter top (with aluminum trim) are fourteen paper cups. Six white, six teal, one blue, one red. Some of the cup are crumpled and on their side, some dented but upright. Behind the cups is a solid dark blue/gray; beneath the counter it’s white—a brighter white than the white cups. At the start of an interview of Redicliffe conducted by Larry Groff, Groff asks, “Can you speak about the difference between what you do and photorealism?” Redicliffe defines photorealism as painting from photographs, which he does not do. But Groff is onto something else. The objects in Redicliffe’s painting are near photoreal—you would not mistake the postcard reproduction of “Fourteen Paper Cups” for a photograph the way might mistake a postcard reproduction of Gerhard Richter’s “Betty” (1988) for a photograph. Redicliffe’s choice of a monochromatic background is a tip-off. The cups themselves—if the title wasn’t “Fourteen Paper Cups,” I’d’ve gone on thinking they were plastic.

The postcard reproduction is 2” x 3”—this reduction suits “Fourteen Paper Cups”—the show was called Small Paintings. On a visit to the gallery, I held “Fourteen Paper Cups.”

If bears discover fire, do they cook? Do they light their caves? We know what happens next.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

213. Susan Schwalb } “Vibration V” 1998.

“Vibration V” refers to an effect:
In my wood panels I began by carving thin lines into the surface after which I applied several layers of paint or gesso. Then, after lightly sanding the surface, enriched the surface with bronze tones and metalpoint drawing. The works seem to vibrate as the eye moves around the painting.
“Vibration V” (1998), acrylic and metalpoint on paper on wood, 30” x 30” x 2,” by Susan Schwalb, presumably “seem[s] to vibrate” as does “Toccata 1” (2010), silverpoint, acrylic on wood, 30” x 30”—
In Toccata… a large yellow surface with contrasting pink highlights is covered with carved lines and metalpoint drawing so that it seems to vibrate as the eye moves around the painting.
At the RISD Museum is Richard Anuszkiewicz’s “Primary Hue” (1964), a painting that also seems to vibrate. Vibration is an apparent effect even with a reproduction of “Primary Hue”; vibration is not apparent with a reproduction of “Vibration V”—or with any of Schwalb’s work. Neither are her works subtle tonal shifts: “Vibration V” becomes strata only.

Schwalb’s focus is her materials. Whenever she is interviewed, she teaches the materials. This is metalpoint, this is the ground. Although music flavors her work (thus, “Toccata 1”), music does not inform her work. Her idea is to make lines (mostly horizontal lines) within the constraints of metalpoint.

Twelve years of work from “Vibration V” to “Toccata 1,” horizontal lines etched with metal into a variety of grounds brushed onto 30” x 30” wood panels (in an interview promoting her 2013 show Spatial Polyphonies: New Metalpoint Drawings, she’s asked about the wood panels. “So, do you have these made or do you do them yourself?” Schwalb lowers her voice and replies, “No. I have them made. I have a wonderful person who does this for me.” The she doesn’t make the panels contrasts with her approach to prepping the surface she etches— “Most of the artists who work in metalpoint today use commercially prepared paper. Coating the paper takes a long time, but it is an important part of my creative process.” Making the panels or not; making the ground or not—choices about what’s important enough to take time).

Time! Decades spent etching horizontal lines with a wide metal band into sanded coats of gesso. “An even grid of narrow horizontal lines forms the basic structure of my drawings and paintings.” “…groups of horizontal bands are carefully (but intuitively) measured.” “…[A]lways searching for a finer and finer line.”

A.R. Ammon’s register tape fed into a typewriter but instead of verse, hyphens only.

Or, had Mark Rothko not committed suicide.

Friday, May 1, 2020

212. Nancy Friese } "Tama Skyline" 1993.

Postcard reproduction:

3.5” x 4.25”—

for real, “Tama Skyline” (1993) by Nancy Friese is 18” x 15”.

But I’ve got only the Pepper Gallery postcard from Friese’s 1994 show Far & Near. A tack-hole in the sky—what corkboard?

Off-center a cottonwood tree, its trunk lit with pink and orange (where the sun hits)—its trunk leans right, branches pull left; the tree’s leaves make a right triangle of sky, blue and blush. A tree with branches like the arms of an exploding firework in the low foreground.

Tama is a city in Iowa. Google search “Tama Skyline” images and most are of downtown Tama. The image that most resembles Friese’s “Tama Skyline” is a photograph of Eileen Crone’s home after the fire that “destroyed her home and all of her belongings on Christmas Day.” Where the cottonwood leans in Friese’s painting stands a brick chimney. Crone is stoic: “We have kids that are good carpenters and they’ll help us get something back up.”

In what book did I keep another Pepper Gallery postcard with a Friese tree on it? A tree painted at the hour before it’s night when the sky is dark blue and the leaves are black?

Friese says, “…and since I don’t go to isolated areas, I go to areas that are fringes of preserved spaces or easy access spaces I am out there [painting] in public. It’s public art. The result isn’t public art but that’s, that’s an interesting way of thinking about contemporary landscape painting.”

If I sit in my backyard and look up at the oak that grows in my neighbor’s yard I see only sky and tree. I’m still in a city. My view of the oak is a fringe. Friese’s trees grow not far from highways and power stations. A road runs nearly the whole length of Friese’s 12” x 96” oil on linen “Through the Groves and Fields” (2005). “Spring Arbor” (2017) is horizontally split by a high fence. Her landscapes are not national parks or golden valleys but are my landscapes: the green between east and westbound traffic on route 2, coastal marshes alongside route 95, the copse behind box stores, the chain-link fenced-in yard. The vernal pond and the junked car is ugly or beautiful.