Friday, October 23, 2009

Aurel Schmidt

Normally artists that primarily do drawings as their main art practice seem to fly under the art world radar. Not so with Aurel Schmidt. She is only 27 yrs old (about) and has already had solo shows at Deitch Projects in NYC and Peres Projects in LA. She draws tiny abject objects like flies, maggots, rats, used contraceptives, and cigarette butts, and patterns them into grinning faces, "zombie" forms, witty phrases, and gobs of hair that look like they've been pulled out of a bathroom drain. She is a master draftswoman and has the patience and work ethic to construct highly complex writhing forms. Her content seems to reflect a bleak world view that everything is not only dying, but rotting on the inside. Schmidt is from Vancouver and grew up with organic eating hippy parents. I can picture her standing in front of the families compost pile getting ideas. Now that she has moved to New York, she seems to be channeling the detritus of a burnout hipster lifestyle through the lens of high modern art in De Kooning and Louis Morris. As her drawings look more towards art history I would hope they don't get sucked too far in. I am sure that if anyone were to appreciate the fox eating his own intestines from the recent film Antichrist (which I have not seen), it would be Aurel Schmidt.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Robyn O'neil

Robyn O'neil's wall size graphite drawings evoke a traditional sense of the sublime. Massive waves, mountains, and storm clouds drawn in exagerated dark values envelope tiny humans. A great definition I heard of the sublime is looking out safely over the ocean at the edge of a cliff. Fear is being in that ocean. In O'neil's work, the viewer is able to feel a bit of that dread while the figures in the drawings fight for their lives. My favorite blockbuster movies are those with overwhelming natural disasters. Mother nature on steroids would be a proper blockbuster phrase to use. The movie 2012 seems to be one more of these films showing in November. If you watch a trailer for the movie, make sure and watch the first one that came out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Emma Kunz

At first glance Emma Kunz's drawings reminded me of my first hour with graph paper and a ruler. At second glance they remind of the same, although she took more time and has a more sophisticated palette. That's ok. Her process is simple and the final product is beautiful, especially when viewed in a grid as seen on her website. They look like a kind of spiritual geometry that is a blueprint for the soul. The drawings are meant to have an
"encoded immeasurable knowledge". The NYC based artist Fred Loomis has probably been influenced by this work. Kunz was known as a healer in her time and the drawings were possibly intended to heal the viewer. Her biography is as interesting as her drawings are.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Matt Furie

I remember seeing Matt Furie's work in a postcard show at The Lab in San Francisco several years ago. He filled the box with postcard sized color pencil drawings of unique human/monster/alien beings that could have worked well as either Pokemon or Magic playing cards. His cartoon style wasn't completely polished yet but the draftsmanship and sheer number of original creations was impressive. He now seems to have a small army of defined characters that he uses to play out small narratives of everyday life. Some of these characters are appropriated from 80's pop culture such as a Terminator, Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon, or Falcor the flying luck dragon from The Never Ending Story. The role of the character is changed in Furie's narratives. Falcor becomes a ravenous flesh-eating monster, Freddy is a loving father, and Skeletor just wants to kick-it with his buds and ride BMX bikes with well-designed pads and pegs. The actions of a grade-schooler in the 80's are played out by his heroes from TV in a paralell universe. Sometimes these characters dabble in the actions of adults (mostly sexual). Furie's creatures are not limited to pop-culture associations though. He has countless creatures that are loosely based on any variety of animal/human/robot/plant life mixture. Cartoon characters are made with more detail and characters from life are drawn more simply, creating an in-between physiology. It seems that the characters more interesting to him make returns in his drawings and begin to form lives and personalities of their own. Overall, his work mirrors a human population that loves having fun, being with family, copulation, and the occasional person that literally wants to rip your head off and eat it with a smile. Furie shows with Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco. He has exhibited at the Cartoon Network studios, New Image Art Gallery in LA, Adobe Books in San Francisco, and Giant Robot in NYC. Matt is from Columbus Ohio went to the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Frank Magnotta

In June of this year, my wife and I were in NYC to set up a show and spent a day hitting the Chelsea galleries. Although we didn't come out of that experience like we usually do (commiserating over the end-of-days) we did feel again let down by the art world and it's predictable glut of text-heavy, anti-beauty, anti-meaning art. There are always exceptions though, and that's why we return.

I have always had a good experience in Derek Eller Gallery and this time was no exception. Hanging was a solo exhibition by Frank Magnotta. Frank hails from Michigan and currently lives in Brooklyn. My first introduction to Frank's work happened in the Phaidon Press book, Vitamin D. His work stood out in a group of very strong artists. I think that what immediately strikes me about his work is his complete control over the medium of graphite, his ambitiousness in scale, and how there doesn't seem to be a lazy square inch on any drawing. This used to be the rule and now it is the exception. Seeing his large-scale drawings in person affirmed what I had seen in Vitamin D. , but like always, the drawings in person are far more impressive. The works on view consisted of complex structures made up of American low-culture and consumer kitsch signage with amorphous forms, sitting in surrealistic planescapes. They are huge and a little overwhelming. Frank also makes portraits but there were none in this show. The Artforum critic's picks review compares Frank's work to Paul Noble because I think there just isn't another drawer that makes such monumental graphite drawings that are this tight. If you ever have a chance, don't miss seeing these in person.