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The Eyes Have It: A Visit with Lisa Hanawalt

August 1, 2013 | by

hedderIf the title of her “one-woman anthology” of comics is to be believed, Lisa Hanawalt’s eyes are dirty and dumb. We should all be so lucky: according to My Dirty Dumb Eyes, they allow her to imagine fashionable animals in haute-couture hats, give her insight into the secret lives of chefs (did you know that “Mark Bittman is a vegan before 6 P.M. and a cannibal after 11 P.M.”?), and help her envision some unconventional uses for wedding registry gifts.

With its leitmotif blend of whimsy, wistfulness, and a touch of scatology, the book is funny and life-of-the-party loud. In person, however, Hanawalt is a little shy and a little earnest. It’s not that she takes herself seriously—it’s just that talking about her work seems to feel a little weird. Which is not to say that her comics are improvised or intuitive; in fact, she maintains a running list of ideas with Notational Velocity, working and reworking concepts until they are just right. This demands patience and perseverance: sometimes the idea lies dormant for years until it’s finally time for it to come out and play.

When we met last month in her Greenpoint studio, Hanawalt proudly showed off her Wacom Cintiq, “the most incredible modern invention—besides a dishwasher” she’s ever owned (it’s an interactive pen that allows her to draw and edit directly on her computer screen), talked about some of her recent comics (“It’s all toilet-based humor”), and considered life after art school (she went to UCLA) and the differences between LA and NY.   

CoverI think the way I was looking at this book was like, This is the world through my eyes. That was the easiest way to explain what the hell this book was. I couldn’t point to another book, and be like, That’s the book I’m going to make. So okay, the world through my eyes, what is that world? Well, I see a lot of dirty stuff, and I see a lot of dumb stuff. And it’s sort of just me, trying to be more debased or humorous as a way of entertaining myself. Read More »

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Romance of the Rose: On Jay DeFeo

May 14, 2013 | by

DeFeo, 1960. Photo via The Whitney Museum of American Art

DeFeo, 1960. Photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“Civilization,” Gertrude Stein says, “begins with a rose.” And also: “It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples.”

You understand what she means when you stand before Jay DeFeo’s massive painting The Rose, a two-ton, twelve-feet-tall canvas sculpted in oil, wood, and mica, a bold burst of grisaille. At the Whitney Museum of Art, where the work is part of the permanent collection, it hangs like an altarpiece, the focal point of a retrospective of DeFeo’s art. Read More »

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An Enormous Amount of Pictures: In the Studio with Miriam Katin

April 18, 2013 | by

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.55.06 PMMiriam Katin’s first book, We Are On Our Own, told the story of her escape, as a child, from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. An attempt to come to terms with her past, to reconcile faith and history, and an elegantly stark tribute to her mother, that graphic memoir was also a beautifully realized work of art. The story it told, retained all the wonder and pain of a child’s impressions, tempered by experience and wisdom.

In her new book, Letting It Go, Katin grapples with her son Ilan’s decision to move to Berlin, a city she identifies with Nazis. An investigation of the price survival exacts, it is also an unabashedly personal investigation of family dynamics, a sequel of sorts to We Are On Our Own.

On a recent March afternoon, I visited Katin, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her cartoon-self, in her Washington Heights apartment, her home for the past twenty-two years and the site of her studio in what used to be her son’s room. She made tea for me and coffee for herself, set out a plate of freshly baked, sugar-dusted cookies, and, with a softly melodious Hungarian accent, recounted the process of working on her books, her feelings about contemporary Berlin, her nine-year-stint living on a kibbutz, her love of the city (“I’m an asphalt flower. Nature is okay, it’s good. But I like asphalt,” she said), and what it was like to be the oldest employee at MTV, where she worked on Beavis and Butthead and Daria.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 12.55.21 PM

The first book stood on its own, a story from A to Z, a start and a finish. Now this story, this new book, is so personal. And it really depends on the first one. I think it would be hard, just getting to it, to say, That’s interesting. It’s more fragmented and extremely personal. And vulgar. And dirty. I didn’t hold anything back. Read More »

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Source of All Joy: On Alina Szapocznikow

January 17, 2013 | by

Alina Szapocznikow. Petit Dessert I (Small Dessert I). 1970–71. Colored polyester resin and glass, 3 3/16 x 4 5/16 x 5 1/8″ (8 x 11 x 13 cm). Kravis Collection. © The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow/Piotr Stanisławski/ADAGP, Paris. Photo by Thomas Mueller, courtesy Broadway 1602, New York; and Galerie Gisela Capitain GmbH, Cologne

The Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow made a career of disassembling the body, of exposing its weaknesses, its many vulnerabilities, whether through the uses and abuses it’s been put to in the abattoir of twentieth-century history or at the mercy of the more mundane, if no less fatal, everyday mortality. If that sounds like a bit of a downer, worry not: Szapocznikow managed to keep a sly tongue firmly in cheek, and her work, for all its startling beauty, its nearly unbearable intimacy, its sublime evocation of pain and disease and suffering, is witty, even funny.

Her sculptures—on display, through January 28, at the Museum of Modern Art, where they are presented as part of a retrospective entitled “Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972”—indulge in the darkest shade of black humor, extracting their punch lines from abysmal pockets of human experience. Take, for example, her Lampe-bouche (Illuminated Lips) (1966), a series of resin casts of a female mouth set atop metal stands and wired to work as lamps.Read More »

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David Opdyke

December 17, 2012 | by

David Opdyke’s studio is, at the moment, mostly emptied of his intricate, deceptively beautiful sculptures, though it is filled with neatly organized boxes, helpfully labeled with the names of the particular bit of flotsam (“Sand,” “Seaweed”) each contains. The artworks are on display at Bryce Walkowitz Gallery in Chelsea, where Opdyke’s PVC-pipes-cum-cherry-blossom-trees (the petals are tiny pink toilets!) bloom in the gallery’s picture window. The piece is part of Opdyke’s first solo show at the gallery, which is entitled Accumulated Afterthoughts.

I met Opdyke at the gallery on a May afternoon, so he could describe the making of his intricate pieces, painstakingly assembled in a process at once “zen” and “after a point, frustrating.” Later that afternoon, I visited his studio. Part of the loft where he currently lives with his wife and two children, it is located right by the Williamsburg Bridge. (When I asked whether the noise of bridge traffic ever bothers him, Opdyke observed that the late-night drunken cell-phone conversations of nearby restaurant patrons are the far greater menace.)

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Terry Winters

April 10, 2012 | by

Terry Winters works on the fifth floor of a Tribeca walk-up. It is a steep climb, but the space is serene and open, decorated with a few large Nigerian ceramics, a framed Weegee photograph, and of course Winters’s own drawings and watercolors (he does his oil painting in a studio in the country). It is also remarkably free of clutter for an artist who describes himself as an “image junky.” Winters spends a lot of time here—“I try to show up for the job,” he remarks when I ask him about his daily practice—though he does not have much by way of routine, allowing the needs of the project to shape his day.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Winters’s first solo show at the Sonnabend Gallery. Now represented by Matthew Marks, Winters’s work continues to be informed by the ideas that animated his very first exhibition. One constant—besides his New York studio, where he has worked from the very start of his career—has been his use of found images, which he faithfully collects and assembles into collages that serve as miniature laboratories for future paintings. But the collages, with their layers and juxtapositions, their invocation of modern technology (several feature visible URLs, linking to universities and laboratories) and natural forms, are also lovely in their own right. Read More »

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