Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gallery Hoppin': Dana Schutz and Francesco Clemente

Stopped at Mary Boone to catch the Francesco Clemente show. Large paintings (with some objects thrown in) with a cross-cultural feel - figures, quilts or quilt-like patterns, sunflowers, masks etc - all images that open several doors to interpretations. I liked the piece here with the dark-skinned young men ogling the figure in the center with the sun-flower head. However, the exhibit's statement was loaded with 80s style art-speak: "the continuity of discontinuity" and such.

It was interesting to see Clemente then the Dana Schutz show at Friedrich Petzel. There are some strong similarities between them in terms of style, using recognizable figures in a - what? Primitive? slightly abstract? expressionist? way, or really, a combination of all that. Whereas Clemente's are a bit more let's say mature (as I grasp for the right word again), Schutz's still have that energetic, raw feel of someone still finding their voice and trying new things in terms of palette and application although she's hardly a newbie.

"Piano in the Rain" (above right) is the name of the show and of the piece here (88x84"). The title literally reflects the image in the painting, one of the more clearly figurative, straightforward ones in the show.

"Small Apartment," (57x83") shows Schutz's strengths as a painter and storyteller. The couple sits at a table, maybe home or maybe at a cafe, clearly in an emotional situation with hand-holding and strewn tissues. Is he breaking up with her? did she just get bad news? is she sad or in a state of depression? Is he understanding or just wanting to get the hell outta there? We've all seen this couple (or been that couple!), somewhere before and Schutz has, too. Yet she presents just enough info to generate the common memory of this, but doesn't spell it all out, forcing you and I (the viewers) to pause! to think! to read into it! I totally dig when a painting does that for me...

And I'm also amazed at her ballsiness with some of her mark-making and brushwork. Doing that little swirl on his forearm to show hair, or the simplistic marks in their faces, those three dark green lines in the shadow of his shirt are all things that at first seem like quick touches, but if you're a painter you realize how difficult it is to make simple marks LOOK like simple marks. It's actually a big commitment to create things like that, to go for it and to make them work! When you break something down to a line or a splatch or a brushstroke, it is much harder to make it work than if you went in and rendered the folds, or hairs or whatever you're representing. In other words, what looks like a simple mark can completely screw up a painting if not done just right.

     I have three shots - one of the piece above and the other two are of some guy just completely absorbed in the Looking. When a painting has that effect, it's successful.

"Building the Boat While Sailing" (120x156", below).

"Yawn 2" (23x20")