Susan Te Kahurangi King’s current exhibition marks her second, highly anticipated solo show at Andrew Edlin, following the critically acclaimed debut of the New Zealand-based artist with the space in 2014, Drawings from Many Worlds. Known for her vibrant and frenetic biomorphic abstractions, Drawings 1975 - 1989 curated by Chris Byrne and Robert Heald features a lesser known series from her prolific and consistently impressive practice...Read More
We recently had the honor of guest curating an exhibition at The Good Luck Gallery, an important, new space in Los Angeles. Founded and directed by former Artillery publisher Paige Wery, The Good Luck Gallery is the only space in LA dedicated to showing the work of self-taught artists. Wery fosters the burgeoning careers of artists such as Helen Rae and Deveron Richard, who maintain studio practices in progressive art studios, as well as artists like Willard Hill, who fall into the Outsider, Visionary, or Vernacular categories. Mapping Fictions, curated by Andreana Donahue and Tim Ortiz, opened on July 9th and will be on view through August 27th.Read More
Deveron Richard maintains a creative practice at one of many ECF art centers in the LA area (previously discussed by Disparate Minds in terms of their relationship to DAC Gallery). His inaugural solo show is currently on view in LA at the Good Luck Gallery through May 21st. From the Good Luck Gallery:
“An idiosyncratic iconography of visionary space travel and anthropomorphic sexuality arrives via the South Bay of Los Angeles through the singularly fertile imagination of Deveron Richard. Winged horses in brassieres and high heels glide peacefully around the cloud-enshrouded towers of a futuristic city, polar bears in lipstick and slit dresses prance through a fluorescent arctic landscape, and provocatively-attired unicorns face off on a hallucinatory geometric color grid. These hybrid creatures of exaggerated femininity exude a quirky eroticism. Rendered in watercolor with a distinctively saturated palette, inventive draftsmanship and hypnotic backdrops of complex rhythmic patterning. Other works depict interplanetary battles with rockets hurtling through galaxies and deadly beams shooting into space.”
Throughout 2015, Disparate Minds writers Tim Ortiz and Andreana Donahue worked directly with The Canvas, a progressive art studio in Juneau, Alaska as Artists-In-Residence, guest facilitators, and curators of the group exhibition NEW VOICES.
The Canvas is a relatively young studio and when we initially joined them was beginning to transition from a didactic approach to art-making to one of professional development. We were given the opportunity work directly with artists in the studio alongside facilitators to share ideas and knowledge about further developing the emerging creative culture and cultivating an environment conducive to the independent discovery of art-making - guiding artists to invent and maintain studio practices of their own devising. We focused on post hoc guidance through the introduction of criticism in one-on-one discussion and group critique, challenging artists to explore the potential investment of time and care available in each of their processes.
The result of this paradigm shift has been a wealth of inspired new ideas and creative voices. NEW VOICES represents a selection of current work in various media by this studio’s most promising and successful artists, including many that we’ve discussed in essays for Disparate Minds over the past year: the nuanced minimalism of Grace Coenraad, Luis Hernandez’s intuitive yet complex abstractions, the enigmatic text-based drawings of Jeff Larabee, and Susy Martin’s bold, layered symbolism. This exhibition establishes a dialogue between artists and artwork, accentuating similar investigations of visual language and innate tendencies - repetitive processes or subject matter choices, surface manipulation, emblematic mark-making, or heightened attention to detail.
Other highlights from the exhibition include:
Mark Davis’ first major work on paper - a complex, pattern-based drawing in colored pencil, created using an intuitive set of rules, built methodically from bottom to top; it’s a spectacle of fluorescent color and rich detail, paradoxically both a simple, flat pattern and organic rendering of form reminiscent of a woven textile.
Exhibited alongside Jeff Larabee is his good friend and fellow explorer of text aesthetics, Terral Kahklen (TK). TK began coming to the studio late in the year, but immediately began making compelling work. He’s an example of an experience with profound intellectual disability that’s persistently misunderstood and unseen, a person whose way of being demonstrates that being disparate from the neurotypical (far from being a mere impairment in any linear sense), can become a disposition in which making connections between his inner and exterior world (social engagement in a fundamental sense) is a series of creative problems. In effect, his entire engagement with the neurotypical world becomes a creative and aesthetically thoughtful endeavor. Throughout his life, he has elected to be silent and communicate almost exclusively through minimal sign language, allowing himself to be understood on his own terms. For TK, creating elegant, minimalist drawings couldn’t be more natural. His process is exceptionally thoughtful, carefully considering each mark for long periods of time despite consistently choosing to repeat the forms T and K in an exclusively grayscale palette; each of his early works was a singular exploration, but quickly accumulated as a dynamic body of work reflecting a clear perspective.
Melanie Olsen is an eccentric artist who has spent her life surrounded by the majestic, monumental terrains of California and Alaska. In temperament, Melanie is a classic landscape painter, inspired by the beauty and romance of the sublime landscape, and strives to respond to it faithfully in her work. Her drawing process is a collection of brief, intensely focused moments in which she traces long, complicated contour lines, gritting her teeth and drawing almost blindly as her eyes intently follow the jagged mountain edges in her source imagery. In the interest of objectivity, she relies methodically on a range of different grades of graphite to control value in her shading, evaluating tones against a set of graphite swatches. Her works are a highly critical endeavor, not intended to be expressive or personal, but idealistic and true.
In addition to being a fantastic exhibition, NEW VOICES is an achievement of one of the most revolutionary and exciting aspects of progressive art studios: their power to support contemporary, genuine work for the benefit of both local and global art communities. In Juneau, Alaska, the local art community (with a few exceptions) produces and exhibits safe. accessible works - neo-impressionist landscapes typical of rural communities and kitschy illustrative works reflecting a narrow set of themes highly driven by the tastes of tourists, while the beautiful traditional arts of Native Alaskans often remain marginalized. In this cultural landscape, this exhibition is an unprecedented emergence of relevant and compelling contemporary concepts and studio processes.
Mary Ann refers to all of her works as her “creations”. Like a story teller, she’s inspired by a combination of personal experiences in her daily life and concepts that she values, such as motherhood and heaven. Consequently, her works have a narrative feel - depictions of people and places that may be part of a story.
Mary Ann’s process, however, is not guided by narrative, but rather by an ambition to create. As a result of this, her subjects aren’t rendered as two-dimensional images, but intended to exist in their own right, in a two-dimensional world. In effect, her imaginative nature inevitably imbues the world she creates with a narrative life, but this distinction in her creative practice is important. Because she's creating rather than depicting, a figure, for example, is drawn in its entirety before clothing is drawn onto it - often a layer of flesh tones is painted before a subsequent layer of paint is added for the color of their clothing. If she includes shoes or gloves for a figure, she draws them around the foot or around the hand, rather than over it. Figures standing in front of a train are placed below the train, rather than in front of it, because both the train and people are created separately. Mary Ann has a highly original way of translating her perception of reference images onto paper, often distorting the scale of objects and editing out details that don’t fit her vision.
In the world she creates, scale is an expressive choice; each form is given whatever space it needs to exist and relate to the world it occupies. Ultimately in her work, she creates people and things to stage a still, timeless moment that’s simple, complete, and good.
Mary Ann James maintains a studio practice at The Canvas, a progressive art studio in Juneau, Alaska.
A Joe Zaldivar drawing was selected for the High Desert Test Sites 2015-2016 Limited Edition Postcard Series. Zaldivar, a prolific artist who maintains a studio practice at First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont, California, has created an extensive body of work using Google Maps Street View images as reference material; this particular piece depicts the Sky Village Swap Meet in Joshua Tree, where the HDTS headquarters is located. Proceeds from postcard sales support future HDTS programming, projects, and events. A few highlights of their compelling and diverse programming include Andrea Zittel's A-Z West, Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum, and the Sky Village Swap Meet. Notable contemporary artists who have exhibited with HDTS include Allan McCollum, Lisi Raskin, Cayetano Ferrer, and Siebren Versteeg, among many others.
You can purchase one of Zaldivar's postcards here.
From High Desert Test Sites:
High Desert Test Sites is a non-profit organization that supports intimate and immersive experiences and exchanges between artists, critical thinkers, and general audiences – challenging all to expand their definition of art to take on new areas of relevancy.
As a conceptual entity we are dedicated to "learning from what we are not." We believe there are many ways to live, and that learning from others can offer new insight and perspectives on ourselves, and the everyday environments we may think we already know well. Our mission is inspired by those visionary individuals who have made their work their life practice – who create intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant work regardless of the market or other outside factors.
HDTS programs include guides to the high desert’s cultural test sites, immersive excursions, solo projects, workshops, publications, and residencies.
When I first painted a number of canvases grey all over (about eight years ago), I did so because I did not know what to paint, or what there might be to paint: so wretched a start could lead to nothing meaningful. As time went on, however, I observed differences of quality among the grey surfaces – and also that these betrayed nothing of the destructive motivation that lay behind them. The pictures began to teach me. By generalizing a personal dilemma, they resolved it.
Gerhard Richter, From a letter to Edy de Wilde, 23 February 1975
Coenraad’s dark, minimalist works are the product of a measured and slow process, executed with extreme diligence. Using 08 black microns, traditional pen and ink nibs, and occassionally graphite, she densely hatches careful lines, which slowly collect on the surface over many hours of work. This method is a clear path leading to an absolute resolution - the surface being obscured by black. The magic of these pieces (although they’re inextricable from the story of the steadfast execution of this simple method) lies in content that’s fantastically nuanced and complex. The black square is a subtle, jagged field comprised of various sheens and tones - certain patches are tinted by an initial application of bright watercolor (often pink or blue) that has bled through the subsequent, inevitable layer of black. The marks made using microns are incised, and those created with india ink and nib lift the paper slightly away from the surface, resulting in a textured surface reminiscent of Richard Serra’s black oil stick drawings. And much like the reductive, sublime paintings of Richter or Clyfford Still, Coenraad demonstrates that the honest act of mark-making isn’t reduced when it’s stripped of intentions or illusion. Conversely, it only becomes more revealing and mysterious.
After his first museum exhibition of entirely black drawings in 2011, Richard Serra was described by critic Roberta Smith as hermetic, abstract, difficult, and austere, an assessment that he accepted, describing it as “a virtue.” Explaining that art has to be difficult, Serra said that drawing independent of the flamboyance of color interaction, mark-making on its own, in black on white, proves to necessitate invention, thereby providing a “subtext” for how an artist thinks. For him, allover black works were a move to escape that convention of drawing as a “form to ground problem” to create works concerning “interval and space” rather than image.*
Coenraad didn’t stumble upon this principle inadvertently like Richter; for her, it’s a process that reflects a way of being. It is, as Serra articulates, an extension of the thought process and more. To a degree that’s rarely seen for non-performative artists, Coenraad is an artist for whom the boundary between life and art is blurred. Every task is executed with the same resolute sensibility, engaging life with a singular and sophisticated method in pursuit of perfection. Every bite of food is carefully selected and examined before being eaten (ingredients of an undesirable color rejected), every mundane task is afforded great consideration. For years she has worked part-time at a document destruction facility, where no one has been able to compel her to obliterate more than one document at a time. At home, blackening crossword puzzle squares for hours with ballpoint pen or sharpie is part of her daily ritual.
In the studio, Grace is fully immersed in her practice - working with her face close to the surface, she becomes absent from anything exterior of the drawing process. Occasionally she will stop and look around the room for a moment like a deep sea diver rising briefly to the surface, before submerging again. Grace doesn’t discuss her work, not because she can’t, but because there seems to be nothing necessary to say once a piece is finished.
Between her larger, long-term works, Coenraad sometimes creates small graphite sketches, thoughtful experiments that serve as a point of entry into her mysterious thought process. The placement of faces demonstrate the dynamics of orientation in her drawings. The coexistence of elements in combination with turning the paper many times while working isn’t incidental to the process, but essential to it.
Coenraad is a Juneau-based artist who maintains a studio practice at The Canvas in Juneau, Alaska. Her work will be included in an upcoming group exhibition curated by Disparate Minds writers Tim Ortiz and Andreana Donahue at The Canvas' exhibition space in December.
Michiels' works are difficult to categorize; they're not exactly images or patterns, and not merely symbols or clearly narrative in nature. They are collections of information - setting up and exploring systems to create intensely detailed works comprised of spaces and passages, each asserting a strong sense of significance and purpose without explanation. Their intricacy demands close viewing, but careful examination becomes a mind-bending exercise that's overwhelming and fascinating. Dan Michiels has been making art at Creativity Explored in San Francisco since 2008. From Creativity Explored:
“Michiels' painstakingly creates meticulous renderings of the mind’s action only in reference to a ruler, paper, pencil, and an array of color, and how these elements organize themselves in two dimensions. This can be a liberally amorphous registration of shape and color, or a pulsating, rigorous grid structure carefully filled-in to create a tessellated all-over composition. “(more)
Louis DeMarco is a Chicago-based artist who has been making art at Project Onward since 2005. His works manifest bits and pieces of a robust alternate reality of his own invention, serving as the basis for creative endeavors of all kinds. The ideals of this other world seem to be characterized by clarity and definition, both aesthetically and conceptually. It’s a place without chaos but not without evil, and where the intangible becomes tangible, concrete, sortable, and clearly arranged. Each work provides new insight into this other place and as the endeavor proceeds, it’s a vehicle for the charismatic and poetic voice of its author.
“A natural comedian, DeMarco infuses humor into serious topics such as disappointment, anxiety, paranoia and relationship negotiations through his series of “Words to Live By” signs, executed in a brilliantly colored Simpsons-esque palatte. Originally a riff on Tom Hanks’ character’s terminal illness (a “brain cloud”) in the comedy classic Joe Versus the Volcano – charting and mapping continue in DeMarco’s popular Cloud Chart series, which catalogs “bad states”, followed later by a series of antidotes (“positive states”) in the Halo Chart series.
DeMarco is also an accomplished bass player for the rock band DHF Express, fronted by fellow Project Onward artist Adam Hines. DeMarco writes original lyrics and music and is developing several screenplays for musicals and comedies. He joined Project Onward in 2005 and currently lives in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.” (more)
Kenya Hanley's works on paper have the feeling of both aspiration and interpretation. Bold, decisive drawings describe a world of abundance, encoded in color and imagined connections between realms of fiction and reality. Hanley works at LAND Gallery, a progressive art studio in the heart of DUMBO, Brooklyn, one of the premiere art neighborhoods in New York. From Land:
"Kenya’s work has been the subject of an exhibition at the flagship J Crew store on Madison Avenue, and the work has since become part of J Crew’s corporate collection. Kenya’s work also figures prominently in the collection of The Museum of Everything in London as well many private collections throughout the United States." (See More)
Donald Mitchell, who has been working at Creative Growth in Oakland since 1976, has become one of the most recognized artists living with developmental disability in the world; he's exhibited and collected nationally and internationally at Rena Bransten Gallery, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the Collection de L’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland and ABCD in Paris. Mitchell's body of work epitomizes a totally authentic and personal engagement of drawing as a lifelong investment in the exploration of mark-making, intuition, and invention. His work develops slowly over time, emerging into a mysterious world of figures. From Creative Growth:
"Donald Mitchell’s early work consisted primarily of obsessively crosshatched fields of lines that covered the page and hid any trace of an underlying image. Over time, Donald started to reveal the faces and forms that he had buried on the page. Donald’s prolific work is now filled with figures in motion and repose, and his trademark has become a tightly composed, graphically sophisticated page of crowded figures." (See More)
Thomas Segwick, in pen on paper, composes images that feel constructed as opposed to drawn, achieving a robust depiction of mass and form with simple outlines. Sedgwick is represented by DAC Gallery, the exhibition space for the progressive art studios operated by the Los Angeles Exceptional Children's Foundation. From DAC:
"Thomas Sedgwick's line drawings are rendered as abstract grids reminiscent of maps, essentially acting as blueprints for his eccentric imagination. At the heart of his images, he depicts the desire to build, plan and create a fantastic world..." (more)
In order to fully appreciate this collection of drawings by Susy Martin, it’s helpful to rethink the practice of drawing in terms of its most basic fundamentals - ideas about technique or visual interpretation. The viewer must reimagine drawing in terms of its most essential and universal function - a practice of mark-making that becomes a reflection of a way of being. In every aspect of her life, Susy demonstrates her convictions, adorations, and general understanding of the world through repetition. From her daily routine to interactions with others reiterated verbatim each day, repetition is her foundation; it’s the means by which she navigates the world and the nature of these works.
Rendering the subject of each piece is an important, yet brief step at the beginning of Susy’s process. Usually working from a photo reference, she creates an extremely reduced image that seems to refer to the photo without striving to recreate it, indexing a selection of elements as symbols. In one instance, when working from a photo that she was particularly excited about, she described the photo itself as an object, with a simple, symbolic rectangle repeated many times.
Once this initial framework is drawn, the majority of her process is methodical, redrawing over and over in alternating layers of charcoal, graphite, and occasionally watercolor. Although her marks often appear energetic and immediate, the image actually develops at a fairly slow pace (by steadily layering over the original marks of a drawing for hours), growing and changing with each iteration until reaching a point of resolution.
Susy uses photos of friends, found images in books, or in some cases (including a self-portrait) images of Tlingit people posed in regalia.
“New Work”, a solo exhibition of Susy Martin’s recent drawings, is currently on view until June 29, 2015 in the gallery space of The Canvas, an integrated progressive art studio in Juneau, Alaska. Martin has shown extensively in group exhibitions at The Canvas over the past few years.
New Work: Susy Martin
June 5 - June 29, 2015
223 Seward Street
Michael Oliveira works at the oldest progressive art studio in the US, Gateway Arts in Brookline, Massachusetts. Oliveira's heavy lines and bulky forms are built up fastidiously over time using very fine point pens, creating a fantastic surface that's difficult to capture in photographs.
"...born in 1978 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has been working happily at Gateway since 2000. He creates embroideries and pottery, but mostly loves making very stylized drawings which he carefully constructs using paint markers and sharpies. His subject matter includes a portrait series of Gateway artists who have passed away." (more)
Tripp Huggins explores the drama of geopolitics in artist books of expressive graphite and crayon drawings. Huggins works at an excellent progressive art studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, Visionaries and Voices.
"Tripp Huggins tells it like it is. The death of President Kennedy, WWII and The Cold War, Stories from the Book of Exodus, are the subjects of Tripp’s narratives. Drawn with pencil and wax crayon, which he prefers because it looks most real. His drawings are a commentary on the world we live in and moments in history." (see More)
William Tyler's images are composed of techniques and visual language that know no equivocation. The problem solving process of drawing is resolved with intention and commitment in each step, resulting in a testimony of total confidence. The stark clarity of his drawing is reflected in the text, creating a harmony between image and language that evokes a dynamic world - paradoxically mysterious and matter-of-fact. Born in Cincinnati in 1954, William Tyler has been making art at Creative Growth in Oakland, California, since 1978, as one of the studio's longest attending artists. (see more)
Evelyn Reyes has been creating powerful and minimal oil pastel drawings like these at Creativity Explored in San Francisco since 2002. The conviction and ritual apparent in her extensive series of works is definitive not only of her creative practice, but also her way of being; from Creativity Explored's website:
"Reyes’ art practice mirrors the repetition and order that are central to her daily life. Reverence for each aspect of the process defines her art practice. It begins with the selection of a piece of specifically sized paper. Next, the particular shade of oil pastel is chosen, the forms outlined then filled with a thick impasto. The finished piece is carefully examined, cradled in her arms, and taken to certain cardinal points in the studio. And finally, there is the ceremonial clean up and storing away of the completed work." (see more)