Review: Andrew Kuo, Water Lilies

Broadway, April 10-May 15, 2021

Andrew Kuo, Water Lilies, 2021, acrylic on linen, 65 x 76 x 2 in 

Andrew Kuo works in infographics, is a popular podcaster, writer, painter, father, native New Yorker, but foremost a thinker. His conceptual abstractions imagine a delightfully (ir)rational system for mapping poetic exuberance and personal truisms. The wit within runs the gamut, from wry, to cutting, to hopeful, to angry to sad. I measure art by how much it makes me feel and his exudes a great emotional variety while managing to turn the salt of life’s wound into realizations inherent in refused expectation.

By using what appear to be complicated info graphic visualizations, Kuo maps his daily poetic reveries and longings, providing the viewer with a key at the bottom of each piece. The keys unravel the meaning of color and form as succinctly as a scale shows size on a map. Inside, particular hues or timetables correlate to giddy, probing, disheartening, immeasurable thoughts.

In the painting Extra #2 (3/7/21), Kuo’s personal command to “Get wiser but also younger and more Chinese with no back pains” is deemed equivalent to all patches of light gray.

Andrew Kuo, Extra #2 (3/7/21), 2021, acrylic and carbon transfer on linen, 65 x 76 x 2 in
Detail of  Extra #2 (3/7/21)

The title of this series is Waterlilies, as in Claude Monet’s. Monet built an artificial lily pond as a homage to Japanese culture for his garden home in Giverny, France. This pond simulation, bristling with feeding koi and rainbow unreality, inspired many of the modernists most cherished works.

Many of Kuo’s paintings, including Flower #2, Water Lilies, The New Yorker! #3 (4/2/21), The New Yorker! #2 (10/10/20), and Well! (2/21/21), combine the language of information graphics with gestural expressionism, drippy ab ex, and color field spirituality. The stems of these referenced movements grew from roots roused by Monet’s impressionist works, whose formalist principles (along with the painterly phenomenological and expressionistic explorations of so many other seminal abstraction fore-bearers, too many to name here but think of the much earlier El Greco as example) chip western cannon piece by piece off of its monument of narrative figuration toward a pile of Greenbergian pure abstraction. The problem I have always had with abstraction is that in its dire effort to birth a new language from nothing, from our reds, yellows, blues, triangles, circles and squares, it inescapably escapes from universal meaning and interpretation to end up floating freely in the ether of unmeaning, maybe trying to justify itself through juxtaposition of textures, historical provenance, or emotions. Maybe its meaning is seen by the ivory tower collegiate who don’t mind exhausting themselves in small white male histories of which man painted white on white monochromes, or which man claimed blue and dragged naked women through it, or what did Malevich really cover up (a racist joke)with his boring black square? For all of these reasons I have truly never connected with abstraction, more I’ve looked at it as a not so fun and very exclusionary dead end (the color field spirituality being my one exception), but this dilemma is cheekily solved by Kuo, in that he has the perfect tool to assign meaning to his splotches and drips. He makes them maps with a key to his internal dilemmas.

Andrew Kuo, Well! (2/21/21), 2021, acrylic and carbon transfer on linen, 45 x 33 x 2 in

I want to take a moment to further consider Monet’s water lilies and the name of this exhibition. Japanese visual aesthetic was one of the great inspirations (cultural appropriations) of the Modernists. Monet had a collection of profoundly influential Japanese wood block prints (including ones by Hokusai) which are still on display in his Giverny residence. In the 1800’s the British forced violently an end to Japan’s long held national isolationism, and out poured the riches of an advanced society here-to-fore barely glimpsed or imagined by Europe and the Americas. The way Gauguin violently claimed the images and culture of Tahiti, western male art modernists stormed the cultural shores not theirs and pillaged, like they have long pillaged, naming the “new images” they found their own innovations and great cultural advancing victories.

As a descendant of a Taiwanese writer father and an art historian mother, it is clear to me Kuo contends with the violence, racism, and ignorance of being American and rooting his career in the historical trajectory of what amounts to endless cultural abuses. As our country begins to admit its history of violence, I’m very excited to see new minority American voices take hold of power and hold court in the art world, but I fear the Wizard of Oz old white men behind their curtains who are adroit at finding new ways to make riches off of voices not theirs.

To conclude, Andrew Kuo’s exhibition is glowing with wit, candor, and intelligence. His poetry and thinking match the beauty of his visual formalism. Waterlilies encourages its audience to ask a poetic question normally kept dormant but close to the surface of consciousness. That is the question of our spirit’s desire weighted against the automated grid of everything bigger, next to the humbling clockwork of existential largeness that demeans our personal hopes in the grandeur of its instrumentation. The bigness is maned, tuned and focused by God knows what, maybe God, chaos, simulation, or…? It’s the cosmic question that, when it comes down to it, all provoking art is asking, what orders us and how, and wouldn’t it be nice to have the key?

Andrew Kuo, The New Yorker! #2 (10/10/20), 2021, acrylic and carbon transfer on linen, 65 x 80 x 2 in  

Kris Kuksi in conversation with Jacob Hicks

A Presumptuously Pagan Celebration, mixed media assemblage, 43” x 33” x 12”

Jacob Hicks: It is an honor to interview you, I have loved your work for a long time. I see in it an infinite kind of maximization. Experiencing it makes me imagine running through a city with a microscope magnifying glass machine simultaneously allowing me to see everything giant and minuscule at once. It also reminds me of those exponential distance videos where the camera eye starts zooming away from an individual object at rapid speeds, moves up through the atmosphere to reveal outer space, moves through space to reveal our solar system, then through the galaxy and so on forever outward. Even though your sculptures have boundaries it is easy for me to imagine them extending on indefinitely, and it is not an easy feat to capture the concept of infinity in a work of art. Tell me about your relationship or thoughts on miniaturization and immensity…

Kris Kuksi: Since childhood I’ve been obsessed with miniatures. As a child I made a small scale winnebago out of construction paper at my grandmother’s house. It was a fascination with a fine line between the real scale world vs. pretending I was really only 4 inches tall. My action figure toys were the players of my world and a rich rural outdoor access without the distractions of cable TV and video games just fueled artistic ventures. I built shrines to dead animals found around her farm with bricks from a slowly collapsing barn. Watching a barn slowly collapse over the years really influenced my artistic ideas. Time was another subject I always felt drawn to, such as looking at a large amount of time within a short perception of distance. I had hours of time. Rural life was slow, very slow, but considering the tree whose roots I had a makeshift fortress for my action figure occupants to dwell, I must have only been a split second of that tree’s life experience. Realizing the selfish human application of measuring time against nature made me appreciate our limited time on Earth.    

Prosperity, mixed media assemblage, 48” x 46” x 12”

I know you are an accomplished realist painter, and those works seem very unlike what you do sculpturally. Does your painting influence your sculpture, how does each mode of making resonate with the other and do they ever live together in a single work?

It certainly was a very necessary fundamental background for my sculptures. It was like a simulation game before jumping in, I’m thinking mostly from a compositional ability to place things in relation to each other to create harmony. I love the compliments objects can have to each other. In my college years my painting instructor taught me to look at the negative space between positive forms to find relationship and balance. I had a huge advantage painting the sculptures after they were built because I understood painting. I experienced a hard life lesson realizing my true following was the 3-d realm, though my ego wanted to be a painter. I had to come to grips and surrender to being a ‘builder’ when it came to the real world calling me.

Reclining Nude, acrylic on panel, 24” x 48”

Who are your primary influences? I see a lot of iconography, the baroque (in terms of frozen or expressed motion) pop culture (in the detritus of works based in assemblage), and a lot of H. R. Giger. Am I off-base? What artists move you and most strongly influence you?

You are definitely correct there. I’m influenced not only by visual artists but also by architecture. I have a fondness for the works of Louis Sullivan, who is largely overlooked because he was the mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright. But it’s also design, ornamental decor, and the relation between the human form and the occupancy within built structures. We as modern humans build our nests as elaborate and complicated places to live, much like my sculptures. I had to provide the setting for the characters and architectural influence is a crucial part of the compositional nature of my works.  

Reign of Ceasar, mixed media assemblage, 46” x 34” x 9”

I’m interested in your fairly consistent choice to maintain a monochrome reality in your assemblage. This is also really fascinating seeing you are a capable and talented colorist in your painting. Tell me about the decision to keep your world monochrome?

It’s interesting because I do actually use a lot of subtle color in my works. There are rusty tones, cool tones, greens, turquoise, etc. Photographs tend to blur or wash those out but its intentional to stay close to neutral zones. It’s a unifying method to make it look as though all the forms are of the same material. Something is always admired in a timeless manner for sculptures of monochromatic finish. I tend to think color defines trends or trends assign color schemes, I try to steer away from being locked into a period of time. I seek to remain ‘timeless’ in what I do. Again, there is that subject of time; ‘all time together’ is a vision I like to explore.

Churchtank Type 6.6F, mixed media assemblage, 12” x 4” x 13”

In your artist statement you talk a lot about cultural decadence and decay, how people’s amassing of material wealth, clutter, and general “stuff” is ultimately their undoing, and how your works are a reflection of death in this regard. They are also extremely elegant, delicate, and beautiful. Tell me a little bit about that conundrum, the beauty and elegance of decadence and decay...

It drives our wants and desires. We make material goods responsible for our happiness and self-worth. I’m probably on the low end of materialistic though I salivate at owning a castle someday while driving a late 70’s Pinto or very run down Mercedes. I’m obsessed with the opulent lifestyle but also ‘fake wealth’ persona. There’s a lot of ‘acting rich’ that goes on and we live to trick others into believing this. So there’s a destructive element to our conditioned response to material needs. My most valued possession is a Civil War era wooden prosthetic leg. For one it’s old, two, it carries an experience with it as it was a necessary tool to help in that person’s life after what trauma they must have experienced. Like you said, it has beauty and decay together. Furthermore in my life of meeting an amazing collection of people, I’m blessed to have had the experience to sit and chat with a homeless person and see the expression value in his views on life. I painted his portrait and it was accepted into a big portrait competition at the Smithsonian years ago.  I really brought the world to him where he was oftentimes overlooked by society. On the flip side, I once sat down to a meeting with the world’s richest man over a proposal for an art installation of mine (in just one of his many homes). We laughed after he felt comfortable in saying “I’m glad I’m not the only crazy one here!” 

A New Divinity, mixed media assemblage, 36” x 36” x 9.5”

If it was the end of the world and you could run into any museum and take out with you one work of art, what would it be?

I’d refuse to take anything. Instead I would just wander around the museum (The Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna) and look at master works while the world ended. I’d like to be a corpse in that museum for the end times!

How are you doing through the pandemic, and has this global event impacted your practice?

Doing fine. I’m mostly a hermit by nature so it hasn’t been such a change. And I still managed to keep sales going through it all. If anything it’s been a blessing for making art but I did manage to get a mild form of the virus for a few days.

Do you have any upcoming exhibitions, events, or publications you would like to share?

I’m coming out with a chess set. That is probably the most exciting news I have, a few other top secret things, maybe.

Eros at Play, mixed media assemblage, 21” x 16” x 8”

What is your advice for young artists, the ones who are driven by a passion for making but maybe don’t have the resources and stability of a lot of the successful artists making their way through this difficult field?

It’s a tough road ahead. I’d advise finding the fine line between making art true to your personal vision, but also making what the world wants a piece of. It’s not always predictable. I never thought the sculpture that I did would be taken seriously, but the world wanted it and it was definitely a very enjoyable path to take. It takes lots of luck too and being visible to the world as much as you can. Say ‘no’ a lot. Say ‘yes’ to challenges. Stretch your abilities. Cut down on the sleep, it’s bad for artists. Eat lots of caffeine, sugar, and carbs, as they help with creativity. Give into your impulses, moderately. You don’t have to be popular, just know your limits. Don’t copy anyone. But if someone does copy you, you’ve made it pretty far already.

Review: John Krausman Lark

Man in Four Places, oil on linen, 54 x 66″

ARTSY Online Exclusive

February 9, 2021 – April 30, 2021

Untitled Space

by Jacob Hicks

John Krausman Lark’s paintings are a very intelligent, hypercritical and condensed deposition of the Americana of late capitalism. A glitching nightmare of commercialized young bodies lounge in suburban utopia. They interweave and exchange form in an ecstasy-less orgy of excess and propagandistic tropes, pornographic desires and manufactured personas.

This is a metaphysical reality where no figure is ever allowed wholeness. The viewer’s present spirit is a kind of tortured consciousness floating outside of the picture plane, forced to remain silently aware of and obedient to the directions of an internal omnipresent incubus bound within and directing the painting’s confines.

These images are psychoanalytic tombs, sarcophagi, time capsules, or eulogies to a dying society. They are forms of documentation of the mutilation the United States commits against the identities of its constituents.

Priest Triptych, far right panel, oil on canvas, 12 x 33″

As children we must separate our true persona, hold that delicate thing up to a mirror of a simulation of a “better” culturally approved identity. Little boys are given white soldiers, monster trucks, tepidities of violence. Little girls are presented busty plastic, make-up-stained, emaciated dolls and rubber babies to practice feeding. No line shall be crossed. Even the aware are staggeringly weak against the collective delusion, a fortified drone dream doppelgänger casting a spell across the world. A phantasmagoria, this unattainable, corrosive white male American vision of post-war picket fenced lawns, ice cubes in summer, swimming pools flanked by voluptuous pink wives and mistresses, baseline salaries and cigars with men in the garage after church, fireworks on the fourth and sports. Endless ignorant self-sacrifices through Dionysian drug-fueled revelries.

Officer, oil on canvas, 40 x 30″

The society celebrates those who mutate their appearance and behavior best. It lauds those who reassemble personhoods into passing reflections of its zombie doppelgänger. Those who are too far removed from the dream are banished, thrown down the rungs of the ladder of social stratification and denied privileges bequeathed all whose selves conform, in theory, at least. In practice, this plastic surgery of the soul is not so rewarding if, say, you are not born into a well-off family, if all the self-disfigurements can’t change your skin color.

The grotesque doppelganger is sculpted from the clay of religious indoctrination, of visual and textual media heavy in propaganda so superfluous as to be commonplace invisible. The sculptor is a sniveling patriarch irreverent to and scornful of absolutely everything, including himself, but most especially an evolving non-white, non-male demographic. Imagine Mitch McConnell’s little veined monster hands in a sandbox, something like that.

Horror, oil on linen, 54 x 50″

What has formed in the dying breath of an American anthropophagi, whose appetite cannot be satiated, is a death cult. Watch it charge the capital and shoot up schools. Watch it rape and pillage and destroy in the name of liberty, commit suicide by filling the skies with the exhaust of its fossil-fuels and the methane of its animal holocaust farms. Watch it round up children along its border, execute innocent black bodies as sport, and finally dance in the plague of a half million dead and growing.

As Americans we are one of two things, a consciousness already broken and shaped or a consciousness floating outside of the confines, aware of them. We are either the oblivious brainwashed or the horrified observers and unwitting participants in the twisted nightmare-scape, close to powerless to halt the gears of a centuries old, violent machine.

Lark’s paintings are a vibrant mirror to our deeply unhealthy cultural consciousness. If we are lucky and observant, our eyes open to the illusionistic perversity of a cultural simulacra directing us, we can use our talents and intelligence to analyze, create, educate, and unbuild this living dystopia, planting seeds of opposition that we water and develop in young minds and future generations.

Western, oil on canvas, 18 x 24″
Yana # 2, oil on canvas, 12 x 16″

Review: Your Wings by Kazuki Takamatsu

Corey Helford Gallery, January 16 – February 20, 2021

by Jacob Hicks

3 CHOICES, acrylic, acrylic gouache, medium, giclee on canvas, 39.4″ x 31.6″

Kazuki Takamatsu uses a “unique depth-mapping technique” where an initial composition is sculpted digitally, every graphic pixel is then tonally matched from the computer model in acrylic gouache and painted painstakingly by hand to canvas. From what I understand the pixel tonal gradient diminishes in brightness equivalently using quadrilateral symmetry. This produces an eerie, uncanny valley aesthetic of unnatural monochromatic perfection.

In my research the descriptions of the making of the work have been vague, and I hope the truth of the process doesn’t include an army of studio assistants creating art like little machine arms in a factory at the behest of an artist. I also wonder why it is necessary to paint the images when they might live just as beautifully as purely digital entities? That aside, the final results of Takamatsu’s labor-intensive paintings are magnetic and exciting.

IT IS TIME TO RELEASE (A PIECE OF THE RAINBOW) – RED, acrylic, silkscreen on panel, 71.6″ x 36″

The work is indebted to Japanese pop cultural history like Kibyoshi, the Edo period’s wood block adult comics, Shoujo manga, a form targeted toward a teen female demographic, kawaii aesthetic and anime. Cyborg aesthetic and science fiction in general are important to Takamatsu’s vision. All his paintings feature undead phantasm doll shells of feminine fantasy. They are hybrid zombie Goddesses enshrined with swords, chains, skulls, goldfish and flowers. In the nude or in negligee, all poses are careful not to “reveal” too much. The paintings manifest a prudish boy fantasy of lifeless femininity, elevating their figures to Godheads void of humanness. Like the corpse of neoclassical Ingres’ Grand Odalisque, or Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck, the female forms are stretched posthuman spaghetti noodles.

YOUR WINGS (TRIPTYCH) acrylic, acrylic gouache, medium, giclee on canvas, 76.3″ x 102″

Though I really enjoy the paintings, I think it’s important to address the sexualized male gaze on these female forms, their child-like physicality, and their separation from humanness. Takamatsu is a cultural producer from Japan, and so I am careful to not be too critical of culture and history that I am not a part of and so cannot fully understand. From a contemporary western perspective, I think the simultaneous empowerment of these subjects (suggested through iconographic compositions and decorations and tokens of power like swords and wings), and disempowerment (suggested through undergarments or nudity and idealizations of lifeless form) beg the question: is a Lolita-like nymph in 2021 a trope worthy of repetition?

The artist’s job is to build from the mud of the muse of their choice, and Takamatsu’s fantasy images of robot doll Goddesses harness a computer-based futuristic power, both beautiful, awe-inspiring and menacing.

I NEED FREEDOM EVEN IF I AM A DOLL, acrylic, acrylic gouache, medium, giclee on canvas, 20.8″ x 17.9″

Review: the likes of others by Jeremy Olson

Unit London, January 6-February 13, 2021

(Images courtesy of the gallery)

by Jacob Hicks

Squaring the Circle, oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm

The conception of science fiction in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus illuminates the horror of desiring immortality, which is never-the-less sought continuously, from our earliest surviving literature-The Epic of Gilgamesh, (and surely before) to now. After the death of his companion Enkidu, a wild man built by the god’s, Gilgamesh invariably learns that “life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands.”

Transhumanism, born of and fodder for so many works of science fiction, exudes this same impulse, the longing for physical immortality and the innate terror of death. Could we, as humans, manipulate the world according to our own irrational precepts, our fear of death and our egocentricity, to stave off the loss of self, using technology to metamorphosize into something both us and other?

As I speak, we are doing it. We have always been doing it, since the first stone thrown, stick sharpened, pair of glasses worn. Consider the commonplace practice of replacing bones with titanium simulations. Consider transporting our consciousness inside the rapidly evolving realm of virtual reality. Is our quest against expiration innate and natural or unholy like the Frankenstein’s corpse amalgam? Does it dehumanize and isolate us like the characters in Jeremy Olson’s exhibition, or is it what makes us human?

I bring up these stories, concepts and questions because I see them proposed at a slant, that is to say poetically, in the transformed tomes of humanness that are the characters in Olson’s work. Isolated science fictions, the inanimate animated, and cartoon revelries-both charming and unnerving-inhabit stylish interiors nested in a further distanced dystopian vista parallel to the one we all find ourselves, in the real world, in. Chopped down forests and dilapidated alleyways sit as tertiary views beyond the containment architectures of Olson’s caricatures. They are pacing, gazing or bored in repose in safe recessed equilibriums.

housesitter, oil on panel, 61 x 51cm

In housesitter, an asymmetrical pipe with asymmetrical breasts and piercing asymmetrical blue eyes- lounging on a yellow and orange retro designer couch-gazes with one eye to a flame burning from a glass oil lamp, and with the other eye at itself in a mirror. Both eyes are turned away from a chemical green sky and looming mountain-scape just outside a round window. The sitter is divorced from what exists outside of its apartment biosphere. It itself is a leaky pipe, some putrid pollution is pooling on a wooden floor.

boundaries of sentiment, oil on canvas, 91 x 76 cm

In boundaries of sentiment, two wolf octopodes in retro science fiction containment ships shyly hold intestine-like tube hands and watch a sunset under a minimalist concrete balcony (which reminds me of the 80’s downtown Dallas brutalist architecture used as settings in the movie Robocop).

flesh horizon, oil on panel, 51 x 41 cm

In flesh horizon, a menacing green-eyed head of cauliflower grimaces before a deforested landscape. It doesn’t look happy to be exposed to the dystopian elements that its brethren creatures of neighboring paintings are all mostly sheltered from. Hewn tree stumps are tangled below a red horizon.

The characters Olson paints are not cartoons or fantasies, they are surreal amalgams of captive and distorted humans, held hostage by the broader systems of hierarchy and control they unconsciously create and enforce. They recall seminal surrealists like Max Ernst, particularly his image The Elephant Celebes, where machine parts and the debris of industrialization animate into beastly figures before a polluted sky.

These pieces also make me think about the similarities of contemporary privileged upper-middle-class Americans and animals in zoo exhibits as defined in John Berger’s grouping of essays called Why Look at Animals.

The animal and the upper-middle-class American are both privileged in being constantly afforded the necessities of existence-shelter, food, clean water, etc. but both are also trapped in an external system out of their control. Both have the immediate appearance of safety and advantage, a controlled aesthetic made to look like nature for the animal or pleasure as material wealth for the person. Both have the constant and pressing existential threat of instability. For the animal it is the instinctual and omnipresent fear of the intruder, for the person it is the potential to lose the stability of income, safety, or health (which is more and more constantly threatened as our social order degenerates under the weight of a waning democracy and the purposefully uneducated masses). The threat of exposure to the unregulated realities of a chaotic truth outside the illusion of stasis brings both a satiating comfort and an irrefutable frustration at being trapped. I like to think the animal’s dream becomes the desecration of its captor, the American’s anger at captivity is satiated through substance and consumerism, both are their own kind of violence. It is important to understand that the threat of upset to equilibrium is key to the survival of the system itself, it creates commerce for the human who needs to constantly consume goods and services to placate their unconscious discomfort in captivity and it brings the potential of exciting danger for the zoo visitor.

Installation view

John Berger compared Francis Bacon’s room-bound ghost-faced men to the animal human hybrids of Walt Disney. Think of Mickey Mouse or Goofy, both have clothed human bodies and the head of animals. The thing that is most funny about a man with the head of a dog is his powerlessness, his utterly apparent placeless-ness, tragedy and humor being the same.

Do you remember the cartoons where Goofy is going about the daily business of a 1950’s middle-class American? For example, he is driving to work at rush hour with a male narrator explaining this everyday ritual like an ethnographer. Berger says the disembodied ghosts of Bacon’s compositions illicit the same muse as Disney’s composite characters, the muse of the imprisoned, the caged, the out of place. I see Olson as a direct continuation of this strange lineage, one further down the line that is closer to an imminent unraveling of humanness in the age of the Anthropocene.

As the caged animal we have two options. We can sit in our temporary cells of comfort and frustration and ignore the unraveling, staring at our social media mediated reflection and pretending that this dead end can lead us to immortality rather than to a digital Necropolis.

Our other option is more challenging, because it requires us to sacrifice the illusion of comfort. It is to escape our individual containers by pushing against the tide of dystopian truths with community, humanism, art, education and the sciences, embracing and healing alongside cultures we have so long desecrated, remembering our immortality rests not in sewing new versions of dead pasts together and willing them back to electric life to repeat a tired cyclical history like Frankenstein’s monster, but from planting the memory of our actions while living in the soil of the reality we share.

panic on holiday, oil on canvas, 76 x 61 cm

Sunstone, An Exhibition

*Aleah Chapin *Amber Hany *Alan Macdonald *Alannah Farrell *Angela Fraleigh *Angela Gram*Anna Mond *Anthony White *Ben Howe *Brandi Twilley *Buket Savci *Christina Duarte *Corinne Beardsley *Daniel Maidman *Eric Mavko *Eric Wert *Hannah Murray *Heidi Elbers *Jamie Martinez *Jacob Hicks* Jessica Damsky *Jiannan Wu *Kaitlyn Stubbs *Kiley Ames *Kristin Kwan *Margaret McCann *Mariano Ching *Meg Franklin *Melanie Vote *Michelle Doll *Miguel Carter-Fisher *Nehemiah Cisneros *Rob Plater *Susannah Martin *Sui Park *Vini Nascimento *Zachari Logan

Sunstone is a silicate mineral occurring in igneous, a type of rock formed of molten material. Mineral platelet positioning within sunstone creates aventurescence, a phenomena of visual radiance, a sparkle. The platelet orientation and density within influences the perceived hue of the stone, forming a radiant topology.

2020 has been a singularly challenging year. Artists, as always, continue to seek reprieve and triumph over obstacle and tragedy in the expression, translation and embodiment of feeling into object. We continue to make the unseen seen, to manifest form through the transformation of materiality. We give life to the most remote elements of the unconscious. The muse ignites us and is like the metallic glitter scattering through igneous rock. Dazzling, short lived, but birthed by every angle, every new challenge, it is a radiance inside the artist like inside the sunstone that prolongs us, that carries us forward.

Thank you to all who submitted work, more generally, thank you to every artist. The work you do is fundamental and courageous.

Click work to expand.

Vini Naso, The Raven, digital, 30 x 40 in

Website: Vini Nascimento,

Instagram: @vininaso

Anthony White, Exposure Control, pla on panel, 36 x 36 in

Website: Anthony White

Instagram: @culturalcrisis

Jessica Damsky, Carnal Garden, oil on panel, 16 x 12 in

Website: Jessica Damsky

Instagram: @jessicadamsky

Susannah Martin, Bavaria, oil on canvas, 170 x 240 cm

Website: Susannah Martin

Instagram: @susannah_martin

Buket Savci, Brooklyn Happening, oil on canvas, 28 x 46 in

Website: Buket Savci

Instagram: @buketsavci

Zachari Logan, Esta Selva Selvaggia, Installation, Collateral Project of the 58th Venice Biennale Thetis Foundation, pastel on black paper, 59 x 288 in

Website: Zachari Logan

Instagram: @zachari_logan

Angela Gram, Transfigured Night, oil on linen, 50 x 60 in

Website: Angela Gram

Instagram: @angelagramart

Margaret McCann, Freudian Still Life, oil on linen, 24 x 30 in

Website: Margaret McCann

Instagram: @margaret_mccann_art

Meg Franklin, Waterfall Night, velvet, wood, foam, rocks, pins, glue, 16 x 11 x 6 in

Website: Meg Franklin

Instagram: @gabooldra)

Alan Macdonald, The Temple of Reason, oil on linen, 70 x 80 in

Website: Alan Macdonald

Instgram: @alanmacdonaldart

Anna Mond, The Milkmaid, After Vermeer, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 40 cm

Website: Anna Mond

Instagram: @annamond

Hannah Murray, Hearts of Gold, oil on canvas, 46 x 36 in

Website: Hannah Murray

Instagram: @hannah_murray_artist

Kristin Kwan, Tiger, Tiger, oil on panel, 11 x 14 in

Website: Kristin Kwan

Instagram: @kristinkwanart

Eric Mavko, Vulture, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 32 in

Website: Eric Mavko

Instagram: @emavko

Alannah Farrell, Midsummer Night 2nd Street, oil on canvas, 60 x 36 in

Website: Alannah Farrell


Kaitlyn Stubbs, September 15, 2020, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in

Website: Kaitlyn Stubbs

Jacob Hicks, Tribute to Toni Morrison, oil on panel, 24 x 32 in

Website: Jacob Hicks

Instagram: @jacob_hicks_studio

Corinne Beardsley, Missing Touch, The Companion Series, video

Website: Corinne Beardsley


Nehemiah Cisneros, Playfully Serious, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84 in

Website: Nehemiah Cisneros

Instagram: @nehemiahcisneros

Eric Wert, Nimbus, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in

Website: Eric Wert

Instagram: @ericwert33

Daniel Maidman, Tanya, The Pond, Morning, colored pencil on paper, 15 x 11 in

Instagram: @danielmaidman

Christina Duarte, Venus with Usagi, oil on canvas, 18 x 26 in

Website: Christina Duarte

Instagram: @cmdoart

Rob Plater, Awkward Imitation, ink on paper,  8 x 10 in

Website: Rob Plater

Instagram: @tmoplater

Angela Fraleigh, Our World Swells Like Dawn When the Sun Licks the Water, oil & acrylic on canvas, 90 x 198 in

Website: Angela Fraleigh

Mariano Ching, Float In Rainbow, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in

Website: ariano Ching

Instagram: @bangawsabaw

Kiley Ames, A Story of Beauty and Blindness, oil on linen, 80 x 50 in

Website: Kiley Ames

Instagram: @Kiley Ames 

Jiannan Wu, Trilogy Ⅱ, Acrylic on resin, wood, 8 x 10 x 3.4 in

Website: Jiannan Wu

Instagram: @jiannan_wu

Heidi Elbers, Swampland, oil on paper, 14 x 11 in

Website: Heidi Elbers

Instagram: @heidielbers

Miguel Carter-Fisher, Aparna Feeding Violet, charcoal on toned paper, 15 x 23 in

Website: Miguel Carter-Fisher

Instagram: @MiguelCFstudio

Melanie Vote, Recumbent, oil on paper on panel, 9 x 12 in

Website: Melanie Vote

Instagram: @melanievotestudio

Brandi Twilley, Summer Morning, oil on canvas, 14 x 26 in

Website: Brandi Twilley

Instagram: @branditwilley

Michelle Doll, Family (MF2 Micro), oil on panel, 10 x 13.25 in

Website: Michelle Doll

Instagram: @michellelynndoll

Sui Park, Keyhole, black cable ties, 59 x 24 x 4.5 (H) in

Website: Sui Park

Instagram: @park.sui

Amber Hany, A Portrait of my Kitchen Window, digital painting, 2100 x 2800 px

Website: Amber Hany

Instagram: @amberhany_art

Ben Howe, Dream, oil on canvas, 122 x 160 cm

Instagram: @benhoweart

Jamie Martinez, Metamorphosing Into an Octopus, paint, spell, marker and scratches on clay, 9 in round

Website: Jamie Martinez

Instagram: @triangulism

Aleah Chapin, Deborah, oil on panel, 20 x 30 in, courtesy of the artist and Flowers Gallery, New York/London/Hong Kong 

Website: Aleah Chapin

Instagram: @aleah_chapin

Review: Willehad Eilers, LA BLAGUE

Galerie Droste, 5 Dec – 19 Dec 2020

DAS SCHWEIN, oil on canvas, 145 x 190 cm

Willehad Eilers or Wayne Horse, the German painter, asks us to participate in la blague-the joke-that is excoriated from asking “what remains when food and other essential goods are always available? When war is only known from the news and you never have to fear for your life? When money and infrastructure are always available?” 

“What remains is your own self-optimization and self-realization. However, the range of what is ‘offered’ as success, happiness or a fulfilled life is relatively small. Thus, not only a general alarming shift of self-related problems can be observed, but also a repetitive and unrealistic representation of life as a single high, as a single party” (text excerpt via Galerie Droste).

Eilers paints this electrifyingly gruesome perpetual party. The work elicits tarts or war head candies, undulating between opulence and disgust, sour and sweet. They are monumentally-scaled, in the vein of the great history paintings. They are surreal conflagrations parallel to German expressionism and its counter Neue Sachlichkeit forbearers who explored their era’s identical fever dreams of deadening excess, the roaring 20’s of the Weimar Republic. It is somehow difficult for us to learn human time is a record on perpetual loop. 

Dreh Dich Nicht Um, oil on canvas, 160 x 240 cm

A fertility trope of woman as rabbit travels through the paintings, represented by the Playboy bunny ears sitting on the various heads of female party-goers. Empires rise and fall like anthills, this is forgotten in the weight of human instinct and hunger. The desire to propagate one’s influence and stake in the future, to revel in the lack of need given to the few who efface it for the many, rules the stretched, broken forms composing these apocalyptic orgies. 

Baby with You, oil on canvas, 52 x 39 cm

The paintings are grandly base and biting, pulling the viewer into a common pit dug of endless surplus, into tornado earthquake zombie hoards of the “well-to-do,” so drunk and empty on account of deadening blackhole enjoyments.

Their is a dangerous pathology that afflicts the global affluent, the hegemony that will not relinquish its power and refuses empathy for those not positioned on top. The obscenely wealthy minority of white males who control the distribution of human resources do not concern themselves with a human communal fate but with their individual comfort and, secondarily, a familial fate. This group has waged a multi-generational war conquering as much of the world’s resources as possible through the widening boundaries of globalized reach, and they have won this war to the detriment of the world, humanity ecologically, and (most ironically) themselves. Morals play no part, truth and honesty play no part, just the basest instinct for more. The distinct and succinct goal of a conqueror is to claim everything for himself, though this subjugates, imprisons, and restrains any hope for change for the majority of humanity.

DER SCHERZ, oil on canvas, 145 x 190 cm

The longing for accumulation, material and control is an incessant human instinct that prevails in the uneducated, fearful and unconscious. Unlike what might be historically perceived, a lack of true education (this excludes an education purchased or performed) is a fundamental feature of the present global aristocracy. Why would an ill-informed hegemon venture to consider empathy when life-long entitlement demonstrates the only necessity is that the world consider him?

Capital He is trapped in his personally sickening fumigation, this thoughtless roach, this image constructed and desired not only poisoning those without, but those within. Notably, the tyrant is profoundly unaware of his own brittleness and stupidity, the decay of his state, exhibit A: Donald Trump, or The General in His Labyrinth, by Gabriel García Márquez, or any number of fumbling or poised dictators or corporate male managers, landlords, or business owners.

Installation View

Eilers applies an accessible and cruel visual language to illustrate all of this, it is an important critique on a sweepingly infirm world and it comes at a crucial time.

Artist portrait: Willehad Eilers/ Wayne Horse

Review: Apostasy by Super A

Thinkspace, December 12-January 2, 2021

“Skeletor” (2020) Acrylic on linen, 20″ × 30″

“The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.”-Oxford Languages

Apostasy, by Dutch artist Super A /Stefan Thelen, is one of the first slated exhibitions at Thinkspace Project’s new gallery.

These images are indebted to the act of wrapping, obfuscating and exposing. The history of art finds perpetual eroticism in forms simultaneously revealed and hidden; excitement pools in the act of almost seeing, in the frustration of quieted revelation. Super A wraps Stefan Thelen (himself) in a duel identity. He, like his art, is both hidden and seen.

“The Itchy & Scratchy Show”(2020) Acrylic on linen, 28″ × 34″

The works are palimpsest shrines, pristine painted illusions to Saturday morning cartoons and adolescence. American pop culture is a ribbon enveloping actuality, or what actuality is boiled down to. For example, The cartoon He-Man’s Skeletor wraps up a skull, Disney’s Big Bad Wolf a true wolf. 

Visual form as we know it in the natural world contains so many kinds of reality: action, emotion, sense, impulse, impression, association. One thing is never one thing. It is the task of the artist to reveal, to peel the proverbial onion of subjectivity aroused by reality. Super A’s act of apostasy is refusing the surface identity prescribed by a culture that equates maturity with the renunciation of itself from myth and metaphor, scrubbing away magic and ceremony and childhood. The paintings are bold and rich, but the repetition of wrapping one “thing” in only one “ribbon” might be a limiting tendency, a minor criticism for a beautifully realized body of work. 

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” (2020), Acrylic on linen, 71″ × 51″

Contemporary America, as I learned it in the suburbs of West Texas, fears the perpetual layers of the real, the depth of infinity sinking and rising from every life and object. It is in this animism one reveals dream to free themselves from the bonds of institution- church and state, god and country. Institutions maintain control by halting personal and cultural evolution. By their very nature they resist change; change demands new order. The integrated self cannot be compartmentalized, the goal of the oppressor is to cut the Möbius strip, the task of the artist is to heal it.

“Fata Morgana” (2020), Acrylic on linen, 32″ × 40″

Review: Merlin Carpenter, Paint-It-Yourself

Reena Spaulings Fine Art, January 31-March 1, 2020

five of 10 very blank canvases

Let’s first say, the trying task of finding this gallery probably adds to the allure of Reena Spaulings as a space, a downtown second-floor hideaway above a bustling (and I’m going to add delicious) Chinese restaurant. The entrance stairwell, lightless, is accessed by venturing through a gaping door maw above a subway exit. I made friends with a lost Australian filmmaker on her first month of a Visa with an artistic curiosity.

We ascend the stairs together, all the while my friend insisting we must be trespassing as I’m suspecting the feeling of exclusion and threat is most certainly of design and desired by the gallery- an escape room of sorts for gentrific 20-somethings seeking their soul’s calling in “the mystery” of art. At the second floor a statuesque, black-clad gallerina closes the door in my face before we might enter, so I proceed to knock.

Now here is where the arc of this art mystery steadies and declines. We gain access and pass through German speakers drinking seltzer fresh from an-ice filled, over-sized garbage can. We pass through cold, conspicuous stares and anxious glancings of young gathering spectators. I see the elevated gallery, wall to wall with maybe 5 x 5′ blank and pristinely-prepared canvases.


“Paint-It-Yourself” instructs the press release along with maybe 10 introduction-to-philosophy-level paragraphs on the artist’s “oeuvre” sprinkled with thoughts on mirrors, climate change, and politics. It was all pretty self-important.

Low and behold, the Germans and twenty somethings crawl toward the box of oil paints in the center of the space and begin to paint, I can’t shake the notion I’m attending the 11th hour-planned birthday party of an unloved, well-off child. The party has nice dressings, a fancy entryway, a spectacle and activity, but is ridden and heavy from a lack of care or meaning.



I decide to paint rather than continue in the causal “should we or shouldn’t we” on-looker dialogues and social constructions I’m sure Mr. Carpenter claims within which can be found his true intent. It is such an over-explored intent, Merlin, and the shouldn’t is found in you making money from this or making more work of undergrad Foundations critique caliber. I’ve seen your other art, next time, paint it yourself.

Addendum: I will admit, I enjoyed painting for a few minutes-I’m a painter, so I also know you shouldn’t encourage young adults and children in attendance to finger-paint with cadmium red. That’s both a liability issue and a health hazard.

image1 (1)
my frog contribution


Review: Aaron Gilbert, PSYCHIC NOVELLAS

Lyles and King, March 1 – April 7, 2019


There is magical realism when reality in a work slips into reverie. Aaron Gilbert’s Psychic Novellas strobe between unflinching social realism and nightmare.


Like Gothic altarpiece, Neue Sachlichkeit, and George Tooker, careful brush strokes built meticulously, one clipped touch next to or on top of another, riddle the surface with vibrating anxiety, a sometimes obsessive, sometimes hastened application imbuing each painting with schizophrenic, violent energy.


Narrative is the blood of these paintings. It courses within screaming and whispering trauma, abuse, oppression, sex, violence. One story here is not hopeless, the motif of the child present as either ghost, pregnant belly, interior keyboard player, or 3/4th’s regal standing portrait.


The painting I wish was the best is the above image of the artist holding a child, on Gilbert’s head is a crevice moon scar suggesting a healed, gnarly surgery. I wish it was the best because it is so hopeful, but where the artist truly sings is within nightmare, like he has experienced too much of it and become it, like the swirling dead eyes of the people he paints belong only to him.