Galeria Janet Kurnatowski
March 2–March 31, 2007
In a talk given at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts, Frank Stella, clearly tilting at the contemporary art market, drew a distinction between “exalted” and “ordinary” art. Abstraction, he said, is exalted, while Pop Art is ordinary. In one sense this was his way of saying he is old fashioned and doesn’t accept that an art whose beauty is self-evident is on a par with an art that needs to be explained to the viewer. (He also said that animation was not art, which, as a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, I cannot accept.) But in another sense, he was making the very intuitive statement that some work’s got it, and some ain’t got it.
Cynthia Hartling’s small abstract paintings, which showed at Galeria Janet Kurnatowski last month, got it. They have the internal kinesthesia that draws us to art in the first place, the surface tension of perfection where all the elements are moving against each other. The hard work and sense of history encompassed by the pieces are immediately evidenced in their quality, a point Stella would surely agree with. Hartling’s relationship to her antecedents informs the work but neither suffocates nor sneers; it is visible in the craft rather than in any self-conscious references or goofiness. Her use of color is ravishing and deeply personal, from pistachios, aquas, and hot oranges to deep, saturated blacks. Hartling compares her process to “editing.” She returns to the paintings again and again, reworking them with an obsessiveness that somehow makes sense for her, focusing sometimes on tiny areas, almost embroidering them, and other times painting over whole swathes of older pieces.
In his talk in Denmark, the painter whom Stella chose as his representative of the exalted in the second half of the twentieth century was Hans Hoffman. At least one of Hartling’s paintings, a patchwork of ochre and black with one luminous, fire-red square, seems to refer to Hoffman. Hartling says that she has been thinking about that artist’s synthesis of the geometric and the organic, and she must also be informed by his theories about pictorial structure, as is evident in the push/pull of her colors. But she takes the recognition of “space” in abstraction outwards to the third dimension; earlier layers of paint show through newer ones in relief, as with the “ghost” circles that appear in the right hand corner of one untitled work. Instead of using tape, she draws and redraws thick lines with her palette knife, sculpting the oil paint, almost getting her hands into it. Other times she will scrape paint across the older surface as if she is trying to drag something across the canvas, fight with it, torture it, until the moment it becomes beautiful and all signs of the struggle fall away.
Frank Stella: From the StudioBy David Carrier
JUNE 2023 | ArtSeen
By now, Frank Stellas illustrious, long career is very well documented. We know by heart the story of his early development of proto-minimalism; his transition to making elaborate decorative paintings; and his construction of metallic relief sculptures. And of course we have his fine, highly personal book, Working Space (1986), which relates that development to the prior history of early modernism. The story of Stellas art is, arguably, the story of late twentieth-century American painting. What more can he possibly do at this point? And how might his style in old age add to our picture of this artistic period?
Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger and Stella MarisBy Andrew Ervin
NOV 2022 | Books
In these magnificent, conjoined novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, McCarthy has taken the oldest story in the worldhumankinds search for meaning in a world seemingly devoid of Godand makes it feel fresh and personal to each and every one of us.
Center for Book ArtsBy Megan N. Liberty
MARCH 2023 | ArTonic
Wandering around the flower district of Manhattan, you may be surprised to see a green flag hanging high above the flowers, signaling the location of the Center for Book Arts (CBA) on the third floor, where it has been located since 1999. As artist and designer Ben Denzer recently wrote to me, Despite coming and going to CBA all the time, I can never really get over how much of an unexpected gem it is. The fact that this book utopia is hiding on the third floor of a random building on 27th street has always made me look at all NYC buildings as if each might contain delightful secrets inside.
Candor Arts: The Chicago-Based Press Reenvisioning Equity in Arts PublishingBy Leah Gallant
APRIL 2022 | Art Books
The organization aims to restructure art publishing to fairly compensate all contributors, rather than one in which artists pay exorbitant costs to publish their work. These publishing projects function like an archive of the Chicago arts during the six years the press was active. Ranging from poetry chapbooks to photo portfolios, the more than editions produced also include the monographs accompanying major museum exhibitions.