Sunday, December 7, 2014

online art interview 12.2014 with Carl Smith

Self taught or art school? 
Self taught, I have taken some night classes around Austin though and I took all the public school art classes I could. I studied Accounting in college and have worked for the IRS since 2007.
If you could own one work of art what would it be? 
Probably a mid 1970s de Kooning; one of his landscapes. Untitled XII from 1975 is my favorite painting, ever. There is also Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, that was a little earlier. One of those.
How would you describe your style? 
Abstract landscapes. I am influenced by abstract expressionism a lot, but I am trying to get away from the aggressive mark making and just paint. All my work comes from a landscape position and a practice of making those.
What are your favourite places to view art? 
I live in Austin, so there aren’t to many places to see art so I try to go to my friend’s art shows when I can. The internet is a great way to get exposed to new imagery, of course its limited but I do my best. Houston is great, the Menil collection rules and the Art Car Museum always has good shows.
Who are your favourite artists and why? 
So there is this dude in Brooklyn Peter Maslow who makes these weird abstract urban landscape type works. His paintings make sense and are constructed logically and intentionally. He also draws well and somehow gets that into the work but not in a forceful way. The colors are toned down a lot but his art makes sense. I mean, he’s not an old master but his paintings have helped me a lot to make sense of the paintings I am trying to make. I like artists like that; that don’t hide their limitations or their feelings. Basquiat is another one. De Kooning of course.
What or who inspires your art? 
I think its wanting to feel empowered or make sense of my limited life. Painting has helped me come to terms with what I am and has helped me to have a place to be myself. So I try to get inspired by the work I have made and I try to work in a way that pushes forward what I am capable of. I have a good idea of what I can not do, and that’s a huge list, but I try to own my limitations and live within them.
Where’s your studio and what’s it like? 
In 2008 I built a 8x12’ studio to paint in about 30 feet from the back of my main house, which is really small, like 830 sq ft or something. It’s a small space which sucks but I really can do anything in there without worrying about making a mess. That has become a big part of my process and I have found trouble trying to paint anywhere else. It has taken years to set it up so I can use it all quickly.
Do you have any studio rituals? 
Nope, I just go in and go for it. I am always under the gun time wise so I just get as much done as I can before I have to go back to work again. Its really messy.
What are you working on currently? 
I am using spray paint a lot more, mostly like an under painting and using the contrast of that to brush stroke to create some color perspective. 
Where can we buy your art? 
My website is but Facebook works better. I show all around Austin but am looking for more internet sales always.
What are your ambitions?

Somehow get to the place where I can paint full time. I am always trying to get better as a painter and learn more about composing an image. Its all about composition.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Farrell Brickhouse: Recent Paintings at Life on Mars Gallery NYC

Farrell Brickhouse: Recent Paintings at Life on Mars Gallery

Farrell Brickhouse might have one of the best names for a painter ever. His recent show of paintings and prints is understated yet bold. The buildup of paint and understated complexity of his compositions lull and charm you into a friendly yet kind world full of lush brushstrokes and beautiful images.
His surfaces are built up in very unique ways through a multi-layering of thick oil paint and many repeated passes over a long period of time. A process this timely might become lost on new generations of painters who do everything fast and then faster. He also seems to find the most interesting surfaces to paint on. Glitter is used on almost all the pieces, while never overused.
The oil paint used in these pieces hold light in place and do a lot of the work for the painter. One of his builder series pieces has blocks of color built inches off the canvas. A strange mouse hangs out and away from the surface standing next to a vertical Tetris of colored squares. The build up toward the bottom of the piece helps give more gravity and volume to the work. I am convinced these pieces would not look good on a grand scale and Farrell has learned to use these smaller spaces confidently and humbly.
“Guys Moving Wood II” is a painting where the title says it all. This is my favorite piece in the show and it reminds me of a video game where guys grouped in threes and fours happily carry brown rectangles back and forth across a muted background. This piece is musical and rhythmic in a way that is emblematic of a painter who loves painting and celebrates his subjects with joy.
Little feet hang from the top of the piece and though it is a horizontal piece, it references a vertical continuation of the subjects. Some of the men have little hats which I love. Saying these are cute should not belittle Farrell’s efforts; art can be many things at once.
Like many abstract painters who reference recognizable subjects in their work, Farrell has developed a language system very much his own.  His way of painting looks childlike at first but draws you in as you see only a skilled painter could.
Abstract Expressionism showed a large and emotional way of image making that was necessary at the time but may not be so true now. How Farrell could make these small works look so convincing makes me rethink what successful painting is.
It’s great to see late career painters revitalizing their careers via social media outlets. Facebook is turning out to be a new tool for artists and this may be the sad future for them. Gallerists also are going to have to use these new outlets to promote themselves to sell their work. Self-advocacy won’t get easier for artists but will become absolutely necessary and may hopefully shift the art world centers away from places where there is little economic diversity.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brian Rutenberg “Saltwater” Forum Gallery, N.Y.C. Art Review 10.30.2014

Brian Rutenberg “Saltwater” Forum Gallery, N.Y.C. Art Review   10.30.2014-12.06.2014

Enveloped in color, these pieces draw you into a unique world. The back and forth of light and shadow suck you straight to the back of these works and leave you cold and wet. Then you get shot back to the front where it is gray and dry. Your brain is kind of mush as the reality of what a landscape can be melts and shifts your gaze forcing you to see the world in an entirely new way. These works also reference a tradition of painstaking artistry that takes decades to wrangle and also includes a disciplined study of centuries of art history. The colors can’t be bought anywhere; they can only be mixed and applied craftily through repeated mistakes, patience, practice and repetition. These works show what some of the most difficult types of work there are look like; the kind that asks everything of your heart and your brain. 
A repeating pattern I see in some of the works is a buildup of foreground information to the far right of the pieces. This forced me to view the piece from right to left instead of the usual left to right (one should assume Brian is right-handed). This lead to a kind of reading backwards that helped me reset my view.
“Rivulet” seems to bend from right to left in this way and has a feel of mid-evening. The south is a weird place and the Carolinas seem to have a very diverse range of nature shapes and colors. Is there any other part of the country that has this feel and diversity of plant and color life? Perhaps, but probably not, serious observation of one place and true love of that place has to go into a convincing artistic representation of it. The obsessing over how to say what is being said here does not come to life in that old 10,000 hour-rule adage.
“Mint Light” is the springiest of the works; mostly green but then purple at the bottom. Tons of yellow light peek through the trees then fade back toward right-center. If there are leaves here they are squared off as sections of colored data. The ground comes up from the left and the horizon line could be where the trees meet the ground or could be higher. Abstraction and realism collide head on in a way that satisfies and also confuses if you are looking for the usual friendly hints that occupy most landscape paintings. This is what good painting is; taking things that are old like painting and landscapes and using new techniques and fearless experimentation to present art in a new way.
“Spell” is a five foot vertical piece that pulls you back, and I mean way back from the front of the piece. The piece has just a couple of shots of yellow near the top left that shed light over the whole blueness of the piece. The heavy bottom juts out and it is sometimes difficult to determine what a tree is and what a shadow is. Like in cubism, both a shaded and a light side seem to exist in the same vertical plane. Then here they fade back as your eye goes up and away into the piece.
I am partial to the horizontal pieces and “Fringetree” has a beautiful slanting horizon line. The colors here are totally obsessed over. Some are purely saturated but then gradated and blended up and down. The bottom of this piece seems to be more in the middle and a gradation from the bottom left using purples and pinks gives the whole thing a sense of fog and displacement.
“Clover” has a milky atmospheric top and just under that to the right center are orange blades of grass (?) that dance around for about two-thirds of the piece. This has more of a definite bottom and a solid left side with black and reds that help to define the foreground. This part contrasts perfectly the way a landscape does and has a satisfying not overworked quality.
These pieces for me embody a very unique way to paint; one that looks backward to a long history of using everything possible to make a convincing piece of art. It also looks back to a history of abstraction in painting that is still figuring itself out and seeks relevancy in a world dominated by technological advances. But these pieces have everything you want in a painting and an art form: color, confidence, composition and a process that is complicated, unique and hard fought for over a long period of time. Yes, these pieces are highly decorative but also possess a dedication and perseverance needed to make good paintings that stand alone, stand the test of time and find a place in the history of painting making.
Please go to
to see the paintings. Forum also has a new eyeglass viewer to look at detailed parts of the pieces.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

“About Thirteen Hundred People, About One Hundred Rocks, and Thirty More People” Drawings and sculpture by Russell Etchen

“About Thirteen Hundred People, About One Hundred Rocks, and Thirty More People”

Drawings and sculpture by
 Russell Etchen

Friday, September 19, 2014
Test Tube at Tillery Park
801 Tillery Street, Austin, TX USA

So yeah, when someone draws little heads, I kinda think, uh, not much of it initially. I went to see what was up with this show anyway. Glasstire put this show in their top five for the week so I was thinking there would be three hundred or so people there. I was glad when there was not. My very old nose and eyes can only take so many crooked hats, fat laces and weird hipster smells. 

The Test Tube space is about 8X16’, I think. There were not a ton of pieces on view but that had nothing to do with the space. I found a perfect amount and variety of works. The space is well constructed but small. I had no clue what the noise was coming from inside the space but there was some. The hanging paper heads threw me off but what really got me were the drawings. I mean, really, I liked these. They were made with care and love and color. They were also presented in real frames with real glass and real beveled edge cut matte boards, which in Austin seems hard to come by these days.

Again, I was not expecting to be into these. I prefer big weird paintings that look like nothing real and also look completely obsessed over but I was happy to find real art in these works. Having to seek the art in these works made me happy when I found it. Me inaccurately thinking art would not be in these works taught me something important; I am often a dumb ass about a great many things.

Art is weird. Artists are bat-shit crazies. I think they have to be. They also have to be dedicated and endure the many piles of crap life throws at them. I think Austin is blessed to have Russell here. He is determined and honest and works hard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Art show review of Gigi Grinstad’s Noctuary @ Little Pink Monster Gallery August 2014

Art show review of
Gigi Grinstad’s Noctuary & Katie Rose Pipkin’s Six Drawings of Dogs and Rocks
two person show @
Little Pink Monster Gallery, Austin, August 2014

Over time Little Pink Monster Gallery’s (LPMG) art shows have become increasingly better. Their recent two person show with Gigi Grinstad (GG) and Katie Rose Pipkin (KRP) was a highlight of my art year and made me glad that we are seeing more high quality art shows here in Austin. I have contemplated moving back to New York City, but shows like these make me feel better about being stuck here.

Well known around Austin KRP operated a gallery here for some time. Upon graduating from UT she accepted residencies inCaliforniaOregonKansas and Minnesota respectively. Was she in the Texas Biennial last year? Yes. And she graced the cover of the Austin Chronicle somewhat recently. Check out her website to experience a diverse range of artistic mediums including twitter bots. I have no clue what those are.

KRP’s intimate and precise drawings complimented Grinstad’s all encompassing installation well. Binder clipped drawings hung from thumbtacks making for a better presentation than framed and matted works behind glass. I loved being drawn into KRP’s finely crafted and cared for world of trees, rocks and dogs. Real love went into these drawings but also style and sensitivity to the medium. Drawing well takes more talent and skill then is sometimes apparent. All the ingredients necessary to make a complete and satisfying image are on display in KRP’s game.

GG is a somewhat new Austin resident and here she has constructed a world full of color, light and imagination. Chicken wire was sculpted into tree like forms extending from grass covered floor to ceiling enveloped with strips of colored paper. I did say grass on the ground and I mean it; sheets of real grass on the floor of the gallery. The LPMG space is not huge and this helped to enclose you in an imagined world full of the external in the internal crafted through the lens of internal artist’s world. I apologize for that last sentence. GG’s paintings also complimented her installation. There were even some abstract paintings on view from her! Or is that a wasp’s nest? I can’t tell anymore, but there was some very interesting structures and nice use of encaustic and oil in her paintings. I hope there are more two person shows like this in our future. Solo shows can get boring quickly and occasionally lack enough variety. Group shows sometimes can be overwhelming and scattered. This was a show that would have easily played well in Chelsea or Brooklyn.

My only complaint is I would have loved to see more old people there. Being 39 I am coming to an age where surrounding myself with twenty somethings on the weekend is becoming more and more depressing. LPMG, please find me some old people I can hang around with at these things.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Julian Schnabel A View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings 1989-1990 Art Show Review

Julian Schnabel  
A View of Dawn in the Tropics: Paintings 1989-1990 Gagosian Gallery May 2014

Schnabel’s career has been quite controversial and varied thus far, but everything he does centers on his work. I love how in interviews he always redirects you back to his paintings. He obviously cares deeply about painting, the history of it and his place in it. I can’t imagine success at Schnabel’s level can be easy as the art world is well known for ruining lives. It is refreshing to look back at a slice of Schanbel’s contribution to the art world of the late eighties to early nineties and see his success in the work too.

Schnabel does what many good painters do; he experiments with his materials and surfaces to conjure new imagery in a way that produces art.

Yes, there is little evidence of the scraping and covering that goes along with an image hard fought for but Schanbel undoubtedly knows his craft and knows when to stop. He has a voice, preferences, and limitations like all artists but works well within that world.

“Little Later” is my favorite piece in the show. It looks like the piece was painted with a tossed pair of jeans thrown repeatedly across the canvas but you only notice this close up. Getting back a fully formed & colorful piece of abstract art is produced. Darks and lights are placed carefully to make a good composition.

I am beginning to understand what it means to have claustrophobia, which Schnabel has. Surfing, painting outside, living in a huge pink castle in the middle of New York City, moving from New York to BrownsvilleTexas at age 15 all seem to have an influence on these works.

Modern day painters should consider and reconsider Schnabel’s art. Not enough artists play and mess with their materials and surface the way Schnabel does. Drag a canvas behind your car while driving over a dirt road, then a paved one. Perhaps your next stop to get something to paint on should not involve a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby.

Friday, May 2, 2014

3 painters I am thinking about

3 painters I am thinking about.

All landscape artists. Each artist’s work results in art that has a unique voice & is full of skill and talent.

Allison’s work has a perfect balance of color and linear perspective and direct decision making showing few scars of any doubt or fear. The verticals and horizontals reference the edges of the canvas the piece lives on. This helps to pull you into her landscape and you can’t really be anywhere else. The forms fit perfectly together across a series of works. I imagine it took decades and decades to be able to paint like this, and the pieces seem to be hard won and fought for. Allison must have stared at and considered landscapes way longer than most of us and the work has paid off in an artistic language system that is unique and consistently high quality.

Lynn’s paintings easily shift from realistic to abstract. She can turn the photo lens on her work in and out at any moment to give you a detailed or abstracted view of a landscape that is satisfying and full of joy. This skill embeds it self in the abstracted and the realistic works and it’s beautiful to see the process inherent in both that relates to direct observation. The color palette is decidedly different from Allison’s; more Midwestern maybe with a certain type of light that comes from direct sunlight where Allison’s landscapes seem to have more of the snow’s light in them. The way birch trees are handled says a lot about Lynn & Allison’s work. Lynn’s edges are softer and bear the scars of a drawing practice; lines define edges as opposed to the lines being the forms themselves as is the case with Allison’s work. Lynn outlines the space more organically while Allison’s directness and economy says a lot with less giving the space a certain power found in handwriting and advertising.

Peter’s work seems to struggle with it self a little more than Lynn & Allison’s work.
His palette is decidedly darker and more urban but extremely and surprisingly color-complex. There is no aerial perspective to my eye here. There are just lots of data up front in the space that seems to fights for air within itself. The lines carve out a space that scares and confines.
The canvases here are way larger than Allison’s or Lynn’s work in the same way life in New York City engulfs and takes over your psyche more than a landscape in the Midwest or Northeast might. You can hide and run through Peter’s paintings. Hofmann’s statement that “the line originates in the meeting of two planes” is sometimes ignored but then given full value.
Peter’s work reminds you that the world is not a safe place and you are going to have to negotiate and compromise your core values somewhat if you want to survive. You may want to push over an old lady over to get on the subway. Pressure and stress may get the best of you for a bit but you’ll see your way out of it eventually and feel like you have done something good. If god created the landscape in Allison’s & Lynn’s work men and women who work their lives away sculpted the landscape Peter is making. Everything natural is covered by something constructed. The world here is a city that is claustrophobic but absolutely necessary.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

“Tallymarks” Philip Harrell solo show 
Big Medium, Bolm Location
February 2014

I had no reason to follow a straight path through Philip Harrell’s first solo exhibition at Big Medium. I was initially thrown from piece to piece by contrasting and somewhat conflicting forms and shapes. I then had to go back to the first piece and start again and try to make sense of it in order. Each piece had its own integrity and compositional laws.

Harrell's chunks of paint were stacked and cut in ways I had not seen before, like a tactile map of a place that doesn’t really exist. Brushed and cut with god knows how or with what. There was palette knife work also, and the edges of the canvas jutted out at me, enclosing the space in unique ways. Some of the rectangular shapes in the composition looked like they were ¼” thick strips of beautifully colored tape cut and placed with integrity and intention. I love art that gives you no hints about how it was made and has its own sculpted life protruding from the canvas.

There were references to plasticity in the titles, and Hans Hoffman’s influence seemed instant to me. Rectangles of pure color referenced the total rectangle and created layers of subject matter that certainly pushed and pulled in and out and around the space. The works relate to a tradition and a search that all good abstract artists venture into. I don't know what is taught in art school these days, but I am glad UT is teaching whatever they are teaching and producing artists that create work this good. The many small (10x8”) works that in a larger format would perhaps feel overhung, worked here perfectly and gave the entire show a relatable and full life.

Austin has a seriously hard time retaining artists at this skill level but I hope we can see one or two shows more before Philip moves on. Who knows, perhaps Austin will grow to be a great place for artists to have full and lifelong careers. Weirder things have happened.
 painting of IRS tax form 1120S