Marlon Mullen

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 14" x 14", 2015

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 30", 2015

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36", 2015

Nancy Graves, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 24", 2014

Marlon Mullen, who is represented exclusively by JTT in New York City, lives in Richmond California, where he maintains a studio practice at NIAD Art Center. Mullen’s abstractions reduce found imagery, often in the form of art magazines, to a point well beyond recognition. Mullen’s work, characterized by flat, simple abstraction, is achieved with an unprecedented sense of honesty, devoid of stylistic embellishment and without reverting to geometric or other systematic deconstructions (calling to mind the work of Gary Hume and Monique Prieto). Each elegant, lushly painted composition feels like an original and unequivocal interpretation of its source (often maintaining only fragments of the initial image), but ultimately asserting a new sense of resolution with power and charm. (See More)

Mullen currently has a solo exhibition on view until November 7, 2015 at Atlanta Contemporary in Georgia. Recent selected exhibitions include the Parking Lot Art Fair, San Francisco (2015), Marlon Mullen at JTT in NYC (2015), NADA Art Fair White Columns Booth in Miami (2014), Under Another Name, organized by Thomas J. Lax at the Studio Museum of Harlem (2014),  Undercover Geniuses organized by Jan Moore at the Petaluma Arts Center (2013), Color and Form at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco (2013), and Marlon Mullen at White Columns in NYC (2012). Mullen is a 2015 recipient of the Wynn Newhouse Award.

Mullen and his works at NIAD


Nicole Appel

Cars, Bikes, Car Parts, and Maine Coon Cats, colored pencil on paper, 19" x 24", 2014

Animal Eyes and Russian Boxes, colored pencil on paper, 19" x 24", 2014

Day of the Dead, colored pencil on paper, 19" x 24", 2014

Faberge Eggs and Communist Propaganda Posters, colored pencil on paper, 19" x 24", 2014

Nicole Appel working in the Pure Vision Arts studio in New York

By collecting richly detailed imagery into densely composed arrays, Appel’s drawings assert complex associations that range from the intuitive to the bizarre. The component imagery is intricately rendered and resolved, creating a noisy initial phenomenology that rewards examination with great generosity of nuance. As a creative endeavor, Appel's work traverses the paper as raw process, distorting proportions in order to remain true to earlier choices (with each element of the drawing determining its own edges) and creating untouched negative spaces valued for their potential to fit something else in.  

from Pure Vision Arts in NYC:

 

"Nicole Appel was born in 1990 and was raised in Queens, NY where she still lives. At the age of three, Nicole was diagnosed with autism. She has always been passionate about making art and in 2012, began attending Pure Vision Arts.
Focused, and with a strong independent will, Nicole enjoys drawing and painting people and objects from her memory. With a particular interest in food, animals and pop culture icons, she has a vivid imagination and creates expressive, painterly images. Her stroke is bold and her use of color vibrant." (More)

Dan Michiels

Return of the Aliens, Mixed Media, 19" x 23" 2009 

HG Wells in a Different Time Barrier, Mixed Media, 20" x 30" 2010 

Return of the Worms, Mixed Media, 2009

all images copyright Creativity Explored

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

Fear Love

Cloud Chart

Halo Chart

Hank the Hawk

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)

Sara Malpass

  

Untitled, ink on notebook paper, 8.5" x 11", 2014

Untitled Story, ink on notebook paper, 8.5" x 11", 2013

Untitled, mixed media on notebook paper, 8" x 10.5", 2014

This selection of lists are works by up and coming artist Sara Malpass, whose recent exhibition What Are Words For, was discussed in our overview of NIAD last year. Although Malpass’ fascination with words has informed the development of more traditional work (in the form of text-based paintings), her hand-written lists on notebook paper, whose reductive, pragmatic language serves as a striking and personal archive, continue to be central to her creative practice and oeuvre. 

Malpass has exhibited work in the following selected exhibitions: Never Shout Never, organized by Jeffrey Cortland Jones (2015), What Are Words For (2014), Serenade: Lists, Poems and Missives (2013) and A Light That Never Goes Out: Continuing Traditions in Abstraction (2013), all at NIAD Art Center.

 

Chris Mason

 

 

Ebony and Ivory holding up peanut butter and jam on toast and milkshakes, modeling material, 2014

Not Titled (woman with snake skin shoes), ceramic, 290mm x 230mm x 250mm

Not titled (woman with snake) , ceramic, 260mm x 170mm x 230mm

Not titled (woman with snake), ceramic, 260mm x 170mm x 230mm

Not titled (standing nude), ceramic, 200mm x 220mm x 140mm

Bare Butt in a Beanie, modeling material, 13 x 21 x 15.5cm

Chris Mason’s small-scale sculptures describe his subjects with adoringly realistic attention to the nature of their forms. In miniature, he achieves the weight and feel of flesh in a manner that’s simultaneously idealized and strikingly true to life. Mason has had an active and accomplished career in Australia and exhibited previously in New York, Chicago, and Paris. Mason has been working at Arts Project Australia, a progressive art studio in Melbourne, since 1998.  From Arts Project Australia:

“Chris Mason is an accomplished artist in a variety of media, including painting, drawing and ceramics. His eclectic subject matter ranges from trains and aircraft to mermaids and voluptuously large women. Mason has a demonstrated ability to render the exterior and underlying structure of the female body, particularly in his sculptural work. Mason has a passion for writing stories that often relate directly to the themes in his art making and this sense of narrative is apparent in his work.” (see More)

Roger Swike

This piece, from the collection of Disparate Minds writer Tim Ortiz, is a work by Roger Swike of Gateway Arts in Brookline, Massachusetts (the oldest progressive art studio we know of, founded over 40 years ago). 

A collection of drawings created at different times and then deliberately assembled by Swike into a folder, it's an assertive, endearing proposition about what an art object can be. Each time Swike's lexicon is revisited, it presents an opportunity to rethink its nature - possibly an archive, message, map, poem, or something else entirely.

Within what initially appears chaotic, familiar text referring to the exterior world is everywhere. Black and blue ballpoint pens and ten colored pencils are used as though each tool has a symbolic role. Some ideas are organized neatly into grids, others are written, and everything written in multiple layers of ballpoint pen. Over time, subtle patterns emerge, such as references to the number 7 or numbers listed on their own counting down from ten (but when listed alongside the alphabet they ascend from 0 to 9).

Because the piece is disciplined and systematic, it's tempting to strive to understand a rigid system that defines it, but the true nature of the work seems to reside in the plasticity of its rules. A grid listing Loony Toons characters breaks pattern to include "YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK SAM DONALDSON", numbers written in black pen without an overlapping of blue pen, yet the sequence and grid are still drawn using the ten selected colors…often it feels as though Swike isn't creating the system, but instead exploring it as a poet does language, both fluent and curious.

Edward Haswood

Edward Haswood, an artist who has been working at Hozhoni Artists in Flagstaff, Arizona since 2007, was able to meet with us to discuss his work during our studio visit last year. Storytelling, he explained, plays a crucial role in his work, citing his grandmother’s storytelling as an important influence. His dynamic body of work, which includes portraits and symbolic imagery, (as well as more complex narrative works) reference stories derived from merging mythologies of his native heritage (both Navajo and Hopi), his life experiences, and imagination. 

Like many of his colleagues at Hozhoni, Haswood is doubly prone to being relegated into the “outsider” genre, as an artist who is both Native American and experiencing disabilities. Given this disposition, it's interesting that while Haswood's work bears little in common with either Outsider Art or traditional Native American art, it has an immediate aesthetic similarity (particularly in terms of color and design) to the work of contemporary Native American artists such as Wendy Red Star and John Nieto.

Kenya Hanley

Untitled, mixed media on paper, 9.5" x 9", 2014

A Lunch, mixed media on paper, 14" x 9", 2015

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

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)

Jessie Dunahoo

 

Jessie Dunahoo's compelling, beautiful installations are vehicles for relating his personal history and fictional narratives, while also recalling their genesis as navigational tools. Composed of patchwork, multi-layered panels, he diligently hand-stitches culled materials (plastic grocery bags, twine, fabric remnants and samples) together by touch, constructing large-scale tapestries, shelter-like structures that respond to specific rooms, as well as outdoor environments. Dunahoo's complex oeuvre feels akin to the work of other contemporary fiber artists (such as Sheila Pepe and Sabrina Gschwandtner), but also reflects the rich tradition and utility of quilt-making in rural Kentucky.

Dunahoo, 82, has been maintaining a studio practice at Latitute Artist Community in Lexington, Kentucky since their founding 15 years ago. He has shown previously at Andrew Edlin Gallery (NYC)  and extensively in the  Lexington area, including Institute 193, a non-profit contemporary exhibition space.

From Institute 193:

"Jessie Dunahoo began his art career as a child, sewing bread bags the length of his family’s farmhouse near Beattyville, Kentucky. As a young man, Dunahoo began exploring the family farm by hanging intersecting strings, ropes and wires which could be grasped and threaded, on various fences and trees, thereby creating 3-d maps which he used to navigate outdoor space.
Jessie Dunahoo is deaf and blind. In time, Dunahoo’s environments have grown and evolved into complex sewn structures made of found materials including grocery bags, fabric samples, pieces of old clothing and twine. Through an interpreter, Jessie describes his works as shelters, and they are strung about his home and yard, covering his walls, floor and ceiling. " (see more)

Thomas Sedgwick

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)

John Patrick McKenzie

John Patrick McKenzie has been working at Creativity Explored in San Francisco since 1989; we were able to meet him briefly during our tour of the Creativity Explored studio last year.  He's has an exceptionally reserved and focused character, and didn't allow our visit to distract his attention away from a methodical and specific preparation of his work-space. McKenzie's works on paper are the perfect expression of a wonderfully inventive sense of humor that couldn't be expressed otherwise. His text, color choices, repetition, and occasional incoherence all contribute to a poetic charisma that is profoundly endearing.  From Creativity Explored:

"Swirling, multi­angled, and disorienting, the placement of his language comments on the contradictory, sometimes overwhelming, nature of media attention and celebrity.  McKenzie’s original script and arrangement of text are tactile examples of his interpretation of the world, and can be both hilarious and poignant. " (more)

Jenny Cox

  

The decorative elements of Jenny Cox’s work explore the idea of embellishment as something reduced, authentic, and mysterious. Outlines, underlines, collections of dots, etc. access the romantic idea that meaning and value can be imbued in a work purely through the act of mark-making. Liza Lou, known for laboriously embellishing common objects with thousands of glass beads, has said “Everything has meaning. That's the philosophy of my work. Absolutely everything has meaning if you give it meaning.”  

In Cox’s work, these decorative elements are not a spectacle, they are bare, intuitive marks giving meaning through this universal language of embellishment to each part of a complex network of text and forms, whose personal significance to Cox is beyond speculation. 

Jenny Cox has been creating art at the Philadelphia progressive art studio Center for Creative Works since 2012.

See more of Jenny Cox' work here.

Susan Brown

Her Mother, mixed media on cardboard, 2012

Parents at the Beach, mixed media on cardboard, 13.5″ x 15.5″, 2013

Breakfast Table, mixed media on cardboard, 12.5″ x 18.5″, 2013

Recalling the charm of Alex Katz and grit of Philip Guston, Brown is a distinctly New York painter. The paintings of her city, memories, and family are structured and complex, while also appearing effortless and intuitive - the result of a long and prolific career. The paragon of her practice is the extensive "Her Mother" series (see first image above),  which includes hundreds of depictions of her mother, organized and described in grids. Brown works at Pure Vision Arts in New York, NY. From Pure Vision:

"Susan Brown was born in 1957 in Copiague, New York and for many years has lived in Sayville, New York. Diagnosed with autism as a young child, she began drawing spirals, women and cars at the age of five and was encouraged by her father, an engineer, her mother, a chemist, and her aunt, a sculptor. Brown first painted her characteristic grid like drawings on cardboard in the 1980’s while working as a dishwasher at Friendly’s where cardboard packing was readily available." (more)

 

Courttney Cooper

Detail of the work pictured above

Courttney Cooper creates elaborate map-like drawings of his home town, Cincinnati, at a fantastic progressive art studio in Cincinnati: Visionaries and Voices.  Working from a vast memory, Cooper's ballpoint pen works on paper are faithful to the complex layout and architecture of his city. These large-scale works are the result of a detailed process that is difficult to fathom, accurately recording the time of year, current events, and modifying previous drawings to reflect modifications to the landscape.  From Visionaries and Voices:

" Courttney Cooper walks the streets of the city, committing the places he visits to memory. Culling observations for cartographic translation in the studio, these “maps” take form on pieces of repurposed paper, from his day job at Kroger, which he glues together creating additional pictorial space as needed. “Bic” pen line drawings of Cincinnati neighborhoods undulate across the constructed surface." (V+V)

Cooper's work is currently on view with fellow V+V artists Robert Bolubasz and Roxann Panetti in their current exhibition "Maps and Legends," at their Tri-County location (225 Northland Blvd) until July 24th. Cooper has exhibited previously at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2013, Western Exhibitions (Chicago) in 2012, and extensively in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, including the Contemporary Art Center and Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, KY.


New Work: Susy Martin

Untitled No. 14, charcoal, graphite, and watercolor on paper

Untitled No. 11, charcoal and graphite on paper

Untitled No. 10, charcoal and graphite on paper

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.

Installation view

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.

Installation view of ceramic pieces

“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

The Canvas
223 Seward Street
Juneau, Alaska

Carl Hendrickson

 

"Carl Hendrickson’s explorations of the way wood works are extravagant, magical, and yet paradoxically pragmatic. While cerebral palsy prevented him from pursuing very many projects – he communicated not in words but through emphasis of gesture and gaze– Hendrickson produced a small, strong body of work that exhibited great architectural prowess and ingenuity. His medium was primarily wood, a material with which he took infinite pains, making certain that each piece of wood was cut and fitted exactly as he had envisioned. He was one of the earliest group of artists to attend Creative Growth, beginning in 1976.

Born in the United States, 1951-2014."  - Creative Growth

Jeff Larabee

Marker on panel, 2015

Marker on Cardboard, 2015

Marker on panel, 2015

Over the course of working in and researching progressive art studios, we’ve encountered many artists who brilliantly incorporate text into their work: the narratives of Oscar Azmitia, rules and records of William Tyler, Daniel Green’s stream of consciousness lists, among many others. Text is usually employed by these artists in creative pursuits because it’s the paramount mode of expression and there’s often no separation between studio practice and daily life. This tendency may be the result of art-making as the most significant form of communication -  a disposition which many artists lay claim to, but few truly experience in such a literal and profound way. 


We’ve recently had the privilege of getting to know Jeff Larabee, a Juneau-based artist working at The Canvas, an integrated studio in Alaska. These grayscale, marker on panel and cardboard pieces (whose surfaces are wholly devoted to hand-written text), are selections from a recent series. The incredible aspect of Larabee's work is that it’s more fully about written language than the artists mentioned above, despite it being unavailable to him as a tool to communicate. 


It’s important to understand that these works aren’t created through an intuitive or automatic process. Larabee always works from a reference - transcribing found newspapers, books, pages of printed text, and often his previous works. Larabee gathers newspapers and carries them with him; he fills in crossword and sudoku puzzles then blacks them out with ballpoint pen, examines articles and classified ads, then blacks them out as well. The process of studying and engaging with newspapers sometimes occupies the majority of his studio time. The romance of his work resides in a study of text akin to the investigation definitive of the work of Tom Sachs, who refers to his process as a form of Sympathetic Magic (the desire to imitate or recreate something whose true nature is unattainable). Sachs explains:


“...when someone like an Aborigine person in New Guinea will make a model of a refrigerator because they saw that missionaries had refrigerators and food was always coming out of them. They made these models of refrigerators, and they would pray to them and hope that food would come out. And they’d even make runways with the hope that airplanes would land on them and docks with the hope that ships would come visit them. In fact anthropologists did come to look at these makeshift docks, and runways, and fridges. So the Aboriginal people, in a way, created their own destiny using art.”  (http://www.somamagazine.com/tom-sachs/)


In the same way that Tom Sachs uses intensive study and mimesis to access NASA’s Space Program, Larabee strives to access the written word. Larabee doesn’t experience written language as a literate person does, but experiences, values, and diligently engages with it in his creative practice and daily life. This body of work aspires to the concept of encoding and transmitting information in a purely magical sense, rendering visible to us what is unseen within the text - an aesthetic and conceptual investigation of letters and words, separate from a concrete concept of meaning. 

Marker on panel, 2015


From a distance these drawings are alluring - stark, clean, and curious, with the promise of an elaborate message. Up close, they provide no message, but are surprisingly labored and nuanced, revealing ghosts of marks wiped away, shades of grey, and repeated, overlapping letters that build history and depth. In the absence of meaning, the accumulated hand-written forms are strikingly personal. Larabee, uninhibited and confident, ultimately leaves nothing between the viewer and his hand, as if the act of mark-making itself carries the power of the written word. 


Although he’s rarely willing to discuss his work, Jeff (an avid Batman fan), has referred to these pieces as “letters to Gotham City.”


Michael Oliveira

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)