Shaping a contemporary artist’s career with Paula Cooper Gallery’s Alexis Johnson
THE GROUP EXHIBITION, DISSOLVING MARGINS, AT PAULA COOPER GALLERY LAST SPRING, EXEMPLIFIES THE QUALITY AND ATTENTION THE GALLERY PAYS TO BOTH THE VISUAL AND CONCEPTUAL ARCH FROM ESTABLISHED CONTEMPORARY MASTERS TO IMPORTANT NEW TALENTS THAT IT REPRESENTS. THIS SHOW FEATURED FOURTEEN OF THE MAINSTAY OF GALLERY ARTISTS INCLUDING LUMINARIES CHRISTIAN MARCLAY, CLAUS OLDENBURG AND RUDOLF STINGEL IN A VISUAL DIALOGUE WITH NEWER STARS SUCH AS LIZ GLYNN, SAM DURANT AND SUHA TRABOULSI WHOSE WORK WAS RECENTLY FEATURED IN Here and Elsewhere: Contemporary Art From and About the Arab World, AT THE NEW MUSEUM.
The title Dissolving Margins is taken from Elena Ferrante’s 2012 novel, My Brilliant Friend, and describes the character Lila’s recurring existential episodes. During these distressed perceptual states, Lila has “the impression that something absolutely material, which had been present around her and around everyone and everything forever, but imperceptible, was breaking down the outlines of persons and things and revealing itself” (p.89-90). The works included in the show are bound by this disruptive experience; each confronts preconceived ideas and normative modes. They deceive and beset, or playfully satirize—in sum they form an unsettling conspiracy.
TODAY, I AM VERY PLEASED TO CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION WITH ALEXIS JOHNSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AT PAULA COOPER GALLERY. ALEXIS INTRODUCED ME TO THE DISSOLVING MARGINS EXHIBIT AT THE GALLERY AND THE DEPTH OF HER KNOWLEDGE AND ENTHUSIASM FOR THE CURRENT GENERATION OF ARTISTS THAT THE GALLERY REPRESENTS PROMPTED MY REQUEST FOR THE LRFA BLOG CONTRIBUTION.
ALEXIS, THANK YOU. DOES MARKET RECOGNITION OFTEN MEAN MUSEUM RECOGNITION AS WELL OR IS THE REVERSE TRUE?
It depends on the curator and museum.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE OTHER ARTISTS, SUCH AS LIZ GLYNN, THAT ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE “CURRENT GENERATION” THAT THE GALLERY REPRESENTS.
Liz Glynn and Justin Matherly are two “current generation” artists that the gallery represents. Glynn’s work looks at artifacts as a way to trace history and politics through sculpture and performance. Matherly is known for large-scale cast cement sculptures that often reference Hellenistic or Roman statuary. The sculptures are cast with ambulatory equipment that calls to mind the decay of the human body.
Known for his large-scale cast concrete sculptures referencing Hellenistic or Roman statuary, Matherly presents new small-scale abstract works. Elements from crutches and walkers are cut, reassembled, and contorted into various shapes, with cast concrete forms accreting around the metal and acting as misshapen connectors or nodes. In a departure from his recent work, Matherly expands his use of color as an expressive element. The works suggest a tension between line and volume, painting and sculpture, the industrial and the organic.
AND I LOOK FORWARD TO THE GALLERY’S SEPTEMBER OPENING OF LIZ GLYNN’S NEW WORK:
Liz Glynn, PATHOS (The Blind Exercises), opening September 12 through October 10, 2015 at 529 West 21st Street.
The series is comprised of discretely handcrafted clay masks portraying a breadth of dramatic expressions. In ancient Greek theater, the mask transformed the performer into a character. A single player could trade identities by switching masks, whose exaggerated features revealed the individual’s emotional state and internal psychology. Glynn’s masks echo the historical tradition of these objects of classical antiquity – an exercise that emerges throughout her work as a means to scrutinize contemporary society. Taking its title from the Aristotelian concept of pathos (a quality that appeals to the emotions of an audience and is essential in the art of argument), the series explores themes of artifice and authenticity in the politics of modern performance and persuasion.
Each mask is initially formed through a blind action: a slab of clay is applied to the face of the artist and rudely manipulated. The ‘mask’ is removed from the face and the resulting gestures are pinched and poked to emphasize certain emotive aspects of the improvised form: a furrowed brow, a hollowed cheek, a gaping mouth. The finished masks are fired in a dark matte charcoal tone whose slight iridescent variation contours the folds and dimpled indents of the clay. While the final sculptures refer to an ancient form, the process is very much influenced by the expressive heroics often evidenced in the hand-hewn quality of works by the Otis school of California ceramicists, including Peter Voulkos and Paul Soldner.
NOW THAT WE ARE ENJOYING THE BENEFITS OF THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE ART MARKET, WHAT IS THE REACTION BY SOME OF THE YOUNGER ARTISTS AT PAULA COOPER TO EXPOSURE IN AN INTERNATIONAL ARENA?
I think the artists are excited by the possibility of their work being viewed by a wider audience.
DO YOU FIND THAT THE SOURCE OF INTERNATIONAL INTEREST IS PREDOMINANTLY ASIAN? HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE SUPPORT OF LESSER KNOWN, MORE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS THAN THE ARTISTS SUCH AS ANDY WARHOL OR JEFF KOONS THAT COMMAND GREAT MONETARY AND COLLECTOR SUPPORT IN ASIA?
Our international interest expands beyond Asia. Walid Raad is a Lebanese artist whose work we have placed in collections throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
WALID RAAD OPENS THE FALL EXHIBITION SEASON at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 12, 2015-JANUARY 31, 2016 – A WONDERFUL TRIBUTE BOTH TO HIS WORK AND TO THE GALLERY’S DEDICATION TO THE ARTISTS YOU REPRESENT.
MoMA presents the first comprehensive American survey of the leading contemporary artist Walid Raad (b. 1967, Lebanon), featuring his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years. Dedicated to exploring the veracity of photographic and video documents in the public realm, the role of memory and narrative within discourses of conflict, and the construction of histories of art in the Arab world, Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war (1975–90), and by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in the past few decades.
There is certainly a high demand in Asia for the celebrity name artists, but I think there is also interest in established artists such as Sol LeWitt and Mark di Suvero.
I NOTE A SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN “CONVENTIONAL” PAINTING THAT IS ATTRACTING A GREAT DEAL OF MARKET SUPPORT. THE ARTISTS FEATURED IN THIS YEAR’S RUBELL COLLECTION DURING MIAMI ART BASEL SUCH AS DAVID OSTROWSKY AND ALEXIS ISRAEL ARE COMMANDING MID-6 FIGURE PRICES AT AUCTION. DO YOU SEE A RENEWED INTEREST IN PAINTING IN THE CONTEMPORARY ART COMMUNITY?
I am not sure there is a “renewed” interest in painting. Painting is an easy entry point into collecting. As the volume of collectors increase, so too does the demand for painting.
AT THE SAME TIME, THERE IS AN ENORMOUS DIVERSITY OF WORK, IN A WIDE RANGE OF MEDIUMS, THAT IS BEING EXHIBITED. HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE, IF IT IS POSSIBLE TO DO SO, THE CURRENT AESTHETIC AND INTELLECTUAL INTERESTS AND GOALS OF ARTISTS WORKING TODAY?
I think it would be a disservice to reduce all of the artists working today around the globe into a sound bite about their aesthetic and intellectual goals. Whether it is based on location, age, gender or race you can draw commonalities between groups of artists. However, what excites me about art is the variety of motivations, viewpoints, and interests.
I LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING ABOUT THE FORTHCOMING EXHIBITION SCHEDULE AND GALLERY HIGHLIGHTS IN OUR NEXT LRFA BLOG WITH ALEXIS.
PLEASE JOIN US!