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Birds that aren’t birds

While we’re on the subject of avians, we stopped in to see Ann Craven’s ultra jumbo-sized budgie paintings at Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert and the first thing and last thing that came to mind was “Sex in the City.” These sweeter than thou birds set before fuzzy backgrounds of sumptuous, candy colors and painted with brushy strokes where every feather is in place, every eyelash mascara’d and every claw nail polished evoke nothing as much as Carrie Bradshaw in her tutu and high heels. (top image is detail from “I’m sorry,” 2004)

Fictional bird bon bons to make you feel good when you’re blue. Fashion, comfort and prettiness are on the plate, other than that it’s calorie- and content-free.

Libby brought up Lisa Yuskavage in our discussion, both for the kitsch-iness of the images and those oh too sweet colors. I think that’s right. (image left is “Stepping out” detail)

There’s also a silliness and a swooning sense of home decor and shopping. The scale alone, a kind of pumped-up, Versaille-like bigness, is a hoot, pardon the expression. (at their largest they are nine feet tall and six feet wide)

Alex Katz was the first reference that popped to mind when I saw “Dear” a painting of a large Bambi-like deer knee deep in a field of daisies (image is detail of “Dear”). Notice the come-hither look in the eyes. Katz is a painter of fashionable pictures. But at least he’s got the human angle going.

These paintings, which I do not think “represent” birds as is suggested in some of the writing, do represent an infantalized idea of birds — and an infantalized idea of painting — lots of brushwork, nice colors, pleasing. Is it perhaps for an audience that eschews content in favor of style?

I believe there’s a big nothing here that’s being made much ado about in the critical writing, some of which was available in the gallery.

“Her heartfelt canvases, touched by an almost religious reverence for the planet’s flora and fauna, are themselves products of an artificial, digitally enhanced reality,” said Francine Koslow Miller in Artforum. Read more acclaim and positioning.

Now I think that quote could apply to Patricia Piccinini’s work (see post below) or Brian Alfred’s work (image is Alfred’s painting of a flock in trees) about which you’ll learn a lot more from Libby. But I don’t buy it for Craven.


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