Modernism in Big Sky Country

Isabelle Johnson, “Calves, Winter” (1950), oil on canvas board, 15.5 x 19.5 inches (all images courtesy Michelle Corriel)

Montana Modernists: Shifting Perceptions of Western Art (2022, Washington State University Press) by Michelle Corriel is an art history book focused on the careers and work of a group of six post-World War II artists who called Montana home and brought Abstract Expressionist influences from major US metropolitan areas and modern European movements (particularly Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and Bauhaus) to a state that had almost no market for the avant-garde. Their goals were not to achieve commercial success but to experiment with, teach, and spread an appreciation of Modernist art to their communities.

“Place,” the first of three sections, explores the work and creative relationship of Montana natives and ranchers Bill Stockton (1921–2002) and Isabelle Johnson (1901–1992). The second, “Teaching/Artistic Lineage” delves into the teachers who influenced the Montana Modernists, then focuses on the pedagogical approaches and legacy of companions in life and work, Frances Senska (1914–2009) and Jessie Spaulding Wilber (1912–1989).

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The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting

Shirley Kaneda, “Furtive Prominence” (2022) acrylic on canvas, 48 x 33 inches

The Feminine in Abstract Painting explores the feminine through aesthetics, not identity or gender. These artistic choices, for example, utilize an open-ended process and vulnerability — one must recognize the trauma of having works by women described as “feminine” disparagingly, as something an artist must overcome. However, through today’s lens, we can analyze and develop a richer understanding that is not defined by success or lack thereof. The exhibition considers the historical basis of one’s associations with the feminine and draws attention to how we determine what to categorize as such.

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Christina Quarles’s Paintings of Tangled Appendages Probe Prismatic Senses of Self

Christina Quarles: By Tha Skin of Our Tooth, 2019.

The first thing I noticed when Christina Quarles opened the door for a studio visit was her face—round, inviting, with light and freckled skin, dark and piercing eyes. I extended my hand in greeting, enacting a dynamic that the Los Angeles–based artist explores in her paintings: though she sees faces as central to how we conceive other people as beings with unified bodies, she suggests we experience our own bodies largely through our appendages, a fragmented and abstracted view of ourselves.

The bodies in Quarles’s paintings—always entangled or embracing, often nude but multicolored—never feel whole, even when a viewer can trace which limbs belong to which torso. Laid Down Beside Yew (2019) depicts a tangle of bodies emerging from two planes: one patterned like a tartan blanket, the other an ambiguous green oblong shape. Three faces are present, but devoid of details; what holds the focus is a ravel of arms and legs.

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Richard Hull Completes the Picture

Richard Hull, “Teller” (2023)

CHICAGO — I first saw Richard Hull’s work in 1981 when he had his second New York show at the Phyllis Kind Gallery. We lost touch around the time Phyllis closed her gallery in 2009, and did not see each other again until 2016, when I wrote about visiting his studio in Chicago, where he has lived since the late 1970s. On my recent trip to Chicago, I did not think I would be able to see, much less write about, his current exhibition, Richard Hull: Mirror and Bone, at Western Exhibitions, running through April 22. I had not considered writing about Hull’s work because we were about to collaborate on monotypes at Manneken Press in Bloomington, Illinois — something we had never done before.

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Miyoko Ito’s Mysteries and Longings

Miyoko Ito, “Untitled” (1970), oil on canvas, 46 x 42 inches

More than 30 years after her death, Miyoko Ito is having her self-named debut show at the spacious Matthew Marks Gallery (February 24–April 15, 2023). That the show is at a blue-chip art-world establishment signals the merger of artistic achievement and financial viability, and brings long-deserved attention to a body of work that has been under-recognized in New York and should be better known in Chicago, where the artist lived. As much as the gallery has done to make Ito’s work widely visible, I believe that it should have done more, starting with the catalogue (with a chronology) accompanying the exhibition, as no essay provides context for her work.

From March 17 to April 30, 2006, the small Adam Baumgold gallery on the Upper East Side hosted a show of Ito’s work.

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Raging Against the Dying of the Light

Jake Berthot, “Night, Sea and the Rock” (c. 2014), oil on linen, 34 1/2 inches x 41 1/2 inches

In an interview between art critic Jennifer Samet and artist Jake Berthot (1939–2014), Berthot reveals that he had a hardscrabble life. He grew up with his grandparents on a truck farm in central Pennsylvania. One work of art was in the house — a double-sided piece. On one side was a line drawing of the horse; on the other a Victorian print of the Last Supper. When he describes his attraction to the drawing, he asks rhetorically, “How could someone make you feel a drawing that is not there?” He cannot believe that you can make a drawing of a real-life subject without having it in front of you. His puzzlement about the relationship between form and absence, what is there and not there, haunted him his entire life.

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Brenda Goodman, Scars and All

Brenda Goodman, “Above and Beyond” (2022), oil and mixed media on wood, 60 inches x 72 inches

A fresh, unexpected buoyancy comes through in Brenda Goodman’s recent abstract paintings, which mark her entrance into new territory. Goodman, who recently turned 80, has been making strong work since her student days in the mid-1960s at the College for Creative Studies (then the Society of Arts and Crafts) in Detroit. In 1976, she left Detroit, where she was part of the gritty Cass Corridor movement, and moved to New York. While her work was included in the 1979 Whitney Biennial, she did not start to exhibit regularly in New York until she was in her late 70s. Continuing to work in a way that did not fit into the art world’s commercial interests, Goodman flew largely under the radar until 2015, when her work was selected to be in the Academy of Arts and Letters’ annual exhibition and she received an award. In 2019, she had her first show at Sikkema Jenkins, which continues to represent her.

Goodman’s oeuvre can be divided into distinct periods, each characterized by a body of work that resembled nothing by her contemporaries. Between 1994 and 2007, she made a series of self-portraits portraying herself as an insatiable devourer that I have described as “one of the most powerful and disturbing achievements of portraiture in modern art.”

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Refreshing Abstraction in Marfa

John Pomara, “Pool Party 39” (2021), oil enamel, polyurethane and spray paint on aluminum panel, 15 x 11 1/2 inches (photo Alyce Santoro/Hyperallergic)

MARFA, Texas — Vision Pool is an immersive experience. While each fresh abstraction by Raychael Stine, Liz Trosper, and John Pomara is a luminous, dizzying, multidimensional world unto itself, the energy field the works generate in concert nearly causes the gallery to hover.

Though each artist’s set of pieces is distinct in media and style — oil on canvas, inkjet monoprints with resin and acrylic, and an alchemical mix of substances on corrugated aluminum panel, respectively — the works have in common elements that test perception. Solid or liquid, flat or dimensional, luminous or opaque, real or imagined?

To call such effects optical illusions or trompe l’oeil runs the risk of oversimplification, but the magic at work here is not entirely unrelated. What term can aptly describe a more sophisticated form of space-time alteration? Perhaps the best word is simply “art” — all three of these practitioners have mastered the craft of vision-shifting, of transporting viewers into the vibrant, fluid spaces of their imaginings.

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History Is Not an Open Book

Alma Thomas, “Carnival of Autumn Leaves” (1973), acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 inches. Collection of halley k. harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld, New York (courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY)

STONY BROOK, New York — University museums and galleries don’t often get the credit they deserve for the important roles they play in art history. I was reminded of this when I went to see the exhibition Revisiting 5 + 1 at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery at Stony Brook University (November 10, 2022–March 31, 2023), curated by Elise Armani, Amy Kahng, and Gabriella Shypula. Artist and Stony Brook professor Howardena Pindell, art historian and curator Katy Siegel, and the Zuccaire’s director and curator, Karen Levitov, also helped shape the exhibition. In Revisiting 5 + 1, the three curators examine and expand upon 5 + 1, a groundbreaking exhibition held at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (now Stony Brook University) in 1969. The timing of this exhibition resonates with the original on many levels.

In the late 1960s, during a violent era marked by the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War, and political assassinations, the English curator, art critic, and new Stony Brook professor Lawrence Alloway invited the Guyana-born British abstract artist and art critic Frank Bowling to curate a show of work by Black artists.

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Roscoe Mitchell Keeper of the Code: Paintings 1963-2022

Roscoe Mitchell, Brogans, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. Photo: Robert Chase Heishman

Corbett vs. Dempsey is pleased to present Roscoe Mitchell, Keeper of the Code: Paintings 1963-2022. This is Mitchell’s first exhibition with CvsD.

Roscoe Mitchell (b. 1940) has been a leading figure in the performing arts for over 50 years. Keeper of the Code is the first solo exhibition to spotlight his work in the visual arts. Born and raised in Chicago, Mitchell formed the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble in 1966, featuring Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors. Three years later, adding Joseph Jarman, upon their departure to Paris for a two-year sojourn the group transformed into the collective interdisciplinary troupe called the Art Ensemble of Chicago. By that time Mitchell had already recorded the first LP of music affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Sound (Delmark, 1966), and he had joined forces with St. Louis trumpeter Bowie for Numbers 1 & 2 (Nessa, 1967), which featured a painting by Mitchell on its cover. Indeed, Mitchell had been painting since 1963, and he continued on and off into the heyday of the Art Ensemble and through a hyper productive sequence of decades of solo music, improvised encounters, and music for Mitchell-led ensembles.

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