Scope over the shoulder


Libby and I will both share our favorite scope encounters. My list includes artists and galleries new to me. I ran into some familiar favorites but for now, the delight of the new. Mostly you’ll notice my penchant for photo-realism and for narrative, something in the air and on the walls at the fair — and in the air and on the walls of the art world in general for some time. I like it primarily because of the narrative which seems to have roots in literature and cinema. This is nothing new either but the universal make it up out of whole cloth fantasizing seems new. Artists are not just commenting on the cinema, they’re creating a whole new world and the paintings are outcroppings from that invented land.

When my kids were little we used to have story time before bed. I think I liked it even better than they did. My kids are too old for story time now so here I am looking for other stories to see, read and share with others. I’m the art mom. You must forgive me.

Astrid Bowlby is not a photo-realist painter and she’s not a story teller per se. I include her in my list because she is a world creator both in her installations and in the dark drawings which Libby and I have both spilled some ink on over the years. (see list at left). Bowlby’s references are to micro-universes and to poetry. In her own way, Bowlby is acting like a fairy godmother anointing space throughout the world with her — previously black on white and here, glorious color — fairy dust. Someone coined the term “benevolent intervention” for works like this, meaning art that is a gift. Bowlby’s art, which trips out of her like an overflowing spring, pushes the viewer gently along into her world. I love to go with that flow. (top image is detail from Bowlby‘s installation at Gallery Joe‘s scope room.)

Here’s what else I saw and loved at the fair:

Chester Arnold at Catharine Clark Gallery, a San Francisco gallery. Arnold, a West Coast artist who spent time in Germany and it shows, paints crowd scenes with men fighting in what looks like a parking lot or maybe a prison yard. There’s mythology and metaphor in all the works which have a Gursky-like fascination with humungous numbers of bodies together. The paint quality’s nice and the colors are great but mostly I’m intrigued by the world view. (right is an Arnold painting.)

Jana Gunstheimer is a young German artist with Zurich’s Galerie Romerapotheke. She’s created a body of work based on a faux company she calls “Nova Porta.”

Gunstheimer’s watercolor paintings (left and right) didn’t show a linear narrative but over time the impact of seeing workers here and high end antique furniture there built up into a kind of dark story about capitalist wealth and worker health or lack thereof. (That’s way too simplistic but overall there was a class component.)

Here my notes actually have useful information. Asking price for her watercolors was $1,000; $1,800 for two; $2,600 for three. They were gorgeous, dark and enticing.

Michael Harrington was the featured artist at Boston’s Miller Block Gallery. I liked the use of red in his works and the focus, which seemed very Los Angeles — noir movie about corporate takeovers.

The large oils were brushy and had some great paint but I preferred the smaller gouaches shown in the bathroom (image) which seemed fresher and more urgent. (you’ll have to use your imagination, sorry the paintings are so small but I wanted to show their placement near the clothes posts and light switch.

Kyung Jeon‘s gouache and pencil drawings on wrinkly rice paper were a giggle. I love that they are images about body made by a woman who knows how to deliver a message without beating you over the head. Kyung Jeon, who won the scope 2004 emerging artist grant, shows with Chelsea’s The Proposition Gallery.

What you can’t see in these two images is that the artist stretches reality of body parts like breasts and hair to make them even more useful appendages than they are to begin with. Breasts become a a sliding board; breasts become a straight jacket; or as in one image (above), they’re pure loop de loop decoration. In one image, heads become legs (left) . The work has a charming whimsy to it and it’s much fresher and way more inventive than Yoshitomo Nara‘s world and characters.

Finally, it was a pleasure to meet Peter Hames of the British Hames Levack curating duo. Their room was sponsored by Factor and specialized in toilet paper pedestals and teabag price cards. Hames and Levack are project people who do hit and run shows including one involving a fleet of floating faux Hoovers launched into the open water somewhere off the English coast. See their website for more. Hames gave us a sticker of that project which Libby may be able to scan in but I can’t due to scanner decapacitation. (image is from a nice chair/video work at Hames Levack’s room, sorry I don’t have a note on the artist’s name.)

Over an out, signing off from scopeland. Back with thoughts about buildings as people triggered by “Building References” at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery.


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