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Posts Tagged ‘artists’

Charles Keeping’s Beowulf

September 22, 2015 | by


The British illustrator Charles Keeping (1924–88) is remembered largely for his work with children’s books. But his morbid style—his first book commission was Why Die of Heart Disease?—often felt better suited to adult fare, and his long career also saw him illustrate Wuthering Heights, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Idiot, and—most impressive—the complete works of Dickens, from Pickwick clean through to Chuzzlewit. The series took him a decade.

In 1982, he contributed these inspired illustrations to an adaptation of Beowulf for ages nine and up. (You can see more of the drawings at Book Graphics.) If your nine-year-old can handle a bleary, ceaselessly gray world in which the sun is a soot-black blot and humans roam the earth in a miasma of hair and stink, have at it. Read More »

Good Old Neon

September 8, 2015 | by

Iván Navarro, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb (Matte Black and Warm White), 2014, neon, wood, formica, drum hardware and electric energy, 72" x 32".

Iván Navarro was born in Chile, in 1972, the year before Pinochet came to power. He grew up with the fear of being disappeared, and so it’s fitting, in a way, that he’s chosen light as his medium. From his studio in Brooklyn, Navarro makes sculptures of fluorescent tubes. “I make spaces in a fictional way to deal with my own psychological anxiety,” he’s said. He’s created neon men and doors, neon words and portals. Ladders of light. Shopping carts of light. Fences, basketball hoops, and water towers of light. There’s an unnerving, geometric precision to these objects. Coming away from them, you begin to see doorways and boundaries with their same nefarious glow; every act of exiting and entering becomes freighted. Many of his works seem to stretch into infinity, as if beckoning you, against your will, into another dimension—a mise-en-abyme effect that’s sometimes deliberately disconcerting, as in one work that shows you the word BOMB receding toward the horizon. It’s seductive signage: you want to go toward the bomb.

Through October 18, CorpArtes is hosting his first retrospective in his native Chile. These images are drawn from the works on display there. You can see more of his work at Paul Kasmin Gallery’s Web site. Read More »

Work About Work

May 14, 2015 | by


Mika Rottenberg, Barbara from Mary’s Cherries, 2004, color photograph

Mika Rottenberg’s installation NoNoseKnows, showing now at the Venice Biennale, focuses on production, as much of her work does: in the video, we watch an assembly line of women making pearls. They turn hand cranks; they manipulate knitting needles; they partake of the despondent rigmarole that is factory life. Soon enough, though, the images lurch toward phantasm. Some of the women are dozing peacefully at their stations; some have their feet submerged in whole baskets of pearls; and their labor is directed from underground by a kind of Pinocchio-nosed queen bee, an exhausted, frazzled woman with a nasty cold. Then, as Randy Kennedy writes in the New York Times, comes the denouement:

the woman sneezes explosively, causing steaming plates of Chinese food and pasta to burst from her inflamed schnozz, which seems to provide the pearl workers’ sole nourishment; the process repeats, maybe endlessly.

Yum. Read More »

Alice Neel’s Brothers Karamazov

February 24, 2015 | by


Alice Neel, Untitled (Karamazov, His Three Sons, and the Servant Gregory), ca. 1938, 14 ¼” x 10”. © The Estate of Alice Neel. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London.

Alice Neel, who died in 1984, is remembered best as a portraitist—her paintings present friends, lovers, and other intimates with an astonishing, often forbidding guilelessness. Your average Neel portrait is penetrating, flip, scary, and more than a little funny, depending on how long you’re willing to hold its subject’s gaze. Neel’s people all look to be plodding through the Stations of the Cross with a kind of decadent resignation—this is the world we live in, and oh well. “Alice loved a wretch,” her daughter-in-law told the Guardian in 2004. “She loved the wretch in the hero and the hero in the wretch. She saw that in all of us, I think.”

When Neel wasn’t painting, she was sketching. Alice Neel: Drawings and Watercolors, a new book with a corresponding exhibition, collects this interstitial work, some of it polished and some hauntingly restive. “There is an essential melancholy to Neel’s work,” Jeremy Lewison writes in the book’s opening essay. “She presents a world of hardship, of tenement buildings and shared bathing facilities, of underprivileged and underclass immigrants, of humanity weighed down by the burdens of living in the harsh metropolitan environment, of human loss and tragedy.”

All of which makes her a natural candidate to reckon with the Russian classics, those icons of gloom. Read More »

Jane Freilicher, 1924–2014

December 15, 2014 | by


Jane Freilicher, Untitled, 1965.

Jane Freilicher died last week at ninety; the New York Times’s obituary called her “a stubbornly independent painter whose brushy, light-saturated still lifes and luminous landscapes set in the marshes of eastern Long Island made her one of the more anomalous figures to emerge from the second generation of Abstract Expressionists.”

In 1965, Freilicher designed the print above for The Paris Review—it was made in an edition of 150 that has long since sold out, unfortunately. The next year, for our Spring 1966 issue, she contributed a portfolio of recent drawings, three of which we’ve reproduced below. (Pardon the absence of details—none of these were published with titles or any kind of metadata. Different times, different production values.)

“Although the complex temperament of her painting prevent its being assigned to a single movement or group, she has been associated the so-called New York School,” the editors wrote then, “particularly with the ‘second generation’ of abstract expressionists”:

It should be pointed out that while abstractionism has entered her work to varying degrees and influenced many aspects of it, she has never at any point abandoned subject matter entirely. The subjects she most frequently chooses are the traditional ones of nude, still life and landscape. Their treatment in these drawings is especially interesting in its illumination of the graphic quality of her art, something from which, in her paintings, attention is apt to be distracted by their sumptuous and subtle deployment of color.

Read More »


Art Amnesty

December 9, 2014 | by


Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?

Many artists delude themselves into believing that they are promising, productive artists when they would live much more fulfilled and useful lives engaged in proper employment. I PROMISE NEVER TO MAKE ART AGAIN provides a baptism of necessary real life and allows artists to “Get Real.” Ditch a life of poverty and precarious self-employment! Don't miss a life-changing opportunity.

Art: It’s had a good run.

You know, there was the Venus of Willendorf. And the Dutch Masters—remember them?—and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, all with some very nice work. And Picasso! Who could forget Picasso?

But we’ve come to the end of the line, more or less. The art world may continue apace, with its Jeff Koonses and its Damien Hirsts, but most artists know only suffering. And to these artists, Bob and Roberta Smith have issued a clear message: go home, clean off your paintbrushes, and do something meaningful with your lives.

“The personal journey for most artists starts with enthusiasm and joy,” Bob and Roberta have said, “and ends, if the artist does not have huge success, in embarrassed children taking their dead parents’ work to the dump.” Read More »