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Dana Schutz, Spiderman 3 (detail), 2008

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Painting Now
April 2-15, 2008

Rumors of the death of painting have been greatly exaggerated; despite its cumbersome history, the medium is flourishing in contemporary practices. In this issue of Artkrush, we discuss how artists such as David Noonan, Julie Mehretu, and Kehinde Wiley are using found images, architectural forms, and historical tropes to subvert painting's traditions. We highlight the portraits of South African artist and DJ Mustafa Maluka, and talk to Dana Schutz about her studio practice and artistic inspirations. On the gallery circuit, we recommend large-scale portraits by Houston-based artist Robert Pruitt in LA and Iván Navarro's light sculptures in Paris, and our media pick is a monograph on romantic painter Karen Kilimnik.

Lauder Gifts Whitney $131 Million
(, March 23)
Sometimes it's more than the thought that counts. Billionaire Leonard A. Lauder has pledged $131 million to the Whitney Museum of American Art through his American Contemporary Art Foundation. $125 million of the gift will go toward the museum's endowment, while the remaining $6 million will be used to offset operating costs. Lauder stated that the donation requires the museum to retain its Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue for an extended period of time. It is unclear how Lauder's gift might affect the museum's plans to build a second location in New York's Meatpacking District.

Getty's California Video Show
(Los Angeles Times, March 18)
The J. Paul Getty Museum has launched California Video, an ambitious exhibition surveying 40 years of video art by 58 California artists. The show traces the development of the medium from the 1967 release of the Sony Portapak, the first portable videotape recorder, to the present day, and includes single-channel works by William Wegman and John Baldessari, as well as new site-specific installation pieces, such as Jennifer Steinkamp's projected clouds of color. In a related interview, Getty Research Institute curator Glenn Phillips cited YouTube as a relevant cultural bellwether, saying, "People are now comfortable with the idea of someone alone with a camera, turning it on, and doing whatever they want to in front of it."

Gehry's Atlantic Yards in Trouble
(New York Times, March 21)
Due to financing problems, a sizeable chunk of starchitect Frank Gehry's plan for downtown Brooklyn may remain unrealized. The multibillion-dollar Atlantic Yards project, which called for the construction of a new basketball stadium for the to-be-relocated New Jersey Nets, as well as four surrounding towers, will now likely only feature the stadium. New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff calls the truncated plan "a piece of urban blight — a black hole at a crucial crossroads of the city's physical history," and muses that Gehry might end up deserting the project entirely.

Art Flourishes in Dubai's Desert
(Moscow Times, March 21)
Art Dubai, the Middle East's biggest art fair, recently drew crowds and collectors alike, with investors collectively paying more than $15 million for contemporary works by artists such as Andy Warhol and Julian Opie. More adventurous patrons, meanwhile, sought out works by relative newcomers, including Iran's Fereydoun Ave and New York's Jay Batlle at the concurrent Creek Art Fair. While the West may be suffering from an economic slowdown, critics credit rising oil prices with producing a new cadre of art buyers in Russia and the Middle East.

Miuccia Prada's burgeoning art empire more »

Luxury towers reshaping Manhattan's skyline more »

Francis Bacon triptych could command $70 million at auction more »

Asian buyers look to Japan for cheaper art more »

Too risky for Ground Zero, Daniel Libeskind still building around the world more »

Does anyone listen to art critics anymore? more »

Damien Hirst's chip-shop fish may fetch $300,000 more »

V&A; show demonstrates China's bold design turn more »

Art alive, but scattered, in Italy more »

Critic Dave Hickey on the contemporary art scene more »

Serero Architects' winning proposal for temporary Eiffel Tower addition a hoax more »

India's time for art is now more »

NYC gallery recreates Dan Flavin's breakthrough 1964 show more »

Rem Koolhaas to renovate London's Commonwealth Institute more »

"Warhol's Jews" reconsidered at new exhibition more »

Why we only like expensive art more »

Cuban art market heats up more »

Installation artist Barbara Bloom suggests that personal taste is art more »

London borough commissions artists to illustrate parking permits more »

Getting to know "artists" on Facebook more »

Spotlighting Latin American art curator Mari Carmen Ramírez more »

LA cultural luminaries discuss the city's future more »

Ohio village knits clothes for trees more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try a shared username and password from BugMeNot.

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[ Painting in the 21st Century ]


Kaye Donachie / Wei Dong / Neo Rauch / Kehinde Wiley

Contemporary painting has become a vehicle for re-evaluation — of historical events, the role of the image in society, and the method of painting itself. Traditionally, the form has defined artist and viewer alike by nation, gender, and race, but now, the canvas challenges and refutes the sanctity of such classifications.

Wilhelm Sasnal, David Noonan, and Kaye Donachie use found images in their painting as an alternative means of documentation. In widely varying styles, Sasnal distills the historical, social, and political significance of particular events and observations from his own life. Noonan's figurative collages and multipanel silkscreens confront the workings of memory with overlaid, mismatched scenes that elude narrative coherency. Donachie probes the paradoxes of radical belief by depicting communal moments from '60s-era subcultures, populated by unsettling, spectral crowds. Ghostly figures also appear in Mamma Andersson's paintings, in which the mythical coexists with the everyday and oblique perspectives reveal portentous visions.

Elsewhere, the Leipzig School's Neo Rauch distorts the confined aesthetic of social realism to create large, surreal canvases of continuous narrative. In works such as Höhe, Rauch recalls advertising from Communist East Germany with architectural elements, industrial symbolism, and heroic figures set in a confused, elaborate scene.

Raqib Shaw and Cecily Brown both consider the extremities of the flesh and its desires and appetites. Fantastical creatures swarm in an underwater world simmering with erotic tension and violence in Shaw's brilliantly colored Garden of Earthly Delights. Meanwhile, Brown addresses the human form in rigorous works that reveal fragments of frenzied, grappling bodies moving between figuration and abstraction.

Returning to compositional principles in Suite à Onze no 19 and Février, Bernard Frize studies pure form with colorful loops and interlocking rectangles. The architecture of abstraction is reconstructed in Mark Grotjahn's skewed geometric paintings, which transform the viewer's visual perception into emotive energy. Similarly, Julie Mehretu's Congress overlays static urban-planning and architectural renderings with a coded language, imagining a densely populated modern environment.

Manipulating classical imagery, Kehinde Wiley and Wei Dong play on conventions of glorification, heritage, and power. Wiley recontextualizes contemporary African American identity by transplanting black men into the canon of Western European portraiture. Wei Dong's pastoral landscape A Beautiful Day exposes a fleshy, nude woman flanked by two others wearing Chinese military fatigues. Waifish girls populate Aya Takano's whimsically subversive paintings, which combine classical Japanese and Western references with futuristic imagery in a strangely familiar and intimate world.

In many of these works, nostalgia is distorted as artistic genres intertwine — an indication of the ways in which painting moves forward while still retaining a sense of the past.  - Sarah Stephenson

David Noonan's Markus, 2008 is on view at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney from April 3 to 26. Julie Mehretu's City Sitings takes place from April 19 to July 27 at Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, MA. Aya Takano's Toward Eternity runs from May 6 to June 14 at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. New work by Neo Rauch is on view from May 12 to June 21 at David Zwirner in New York.

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Robert Pruitt: Two Tears in a Bucket: Considering the Alcubierre Metric
Los Angeles

Mary Goldman Gallery
Now through April 19

  In large-scale portraits at LA's Mary Goldman Gallery, Houston-based artist Robert Pruitt juxtaposes diverse historical iconographies with his series of Conté-crayon works on Kraft paper Two Tears in a Bucket: Considering the Alcubierre Metric. The Alcubierre metric is a mathematical formulation for time travel to the future, in which, according to sci-fi films of Pruitt's youth, African Americans are largely absent — a functional extinction symbolic of contemporary socioeconomic marginalization. Pruitt's rich palette and the spatial luminosity of his subjects' empty environs highlights the crispness of their sensual, almost life-size bodies. A ceremonial, institutional aura pervades the figures, who are posed wearing incongruous outfits, as in Rage Against the Machine, which shows a woman of regal bearing, her layered petticoats and collar imposingly lovely; beneath her skirts, she wears white running shoes.  - Shana Nys Dambrot

Hyungkoo Lee: Animatuseum
New York

Arario Gallery
Now through April 19

  In his series Animatuseum, Korean artist Hyungkoo Lee transforms iconic American cartoon critters into grimly whimsical skeletons, recasting the familiar characters in suspended-animation tableaux in a darkened gallery. In one installation, Tom — paws upraised and outsized skull sans trademark bulging eyes — looms in frozen pursuit over a wee Jerry, who glances anxiously over his shoulder mid-stride, his tiny, resin-cast rib cage reproduced with painstaking precision. A detailed, anatomical drawing of Mickey Mouse's head and a fishbowl view of Lee's laboratory contribute to the exhibition's austere, natural-history-museum atmosphere. At once charming and unsettling, Lee's exacting, scientific take on animated frivolity quietly suggests an off-kilter world in which our priorities are all wrong.  - J.K. Glei

Iván Navarro: Antifurniture

Galerie Daniel Templon
Now through April 5

  Chilean artist Iván Navarro's Antifurniture is currently glowing at Paris' discreet Galerie Daniel Templon. The sculptures, featuring fluorescent or neon tubes, immediately evoke Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, and Mona Hatoum minus the theoretical complexity, but with plenty of simple beauty and reflexive fun. In In Between Walls and Negative Progression, Navarro sandwiches lighting arrangements between two mirrors, one reflective and the other one-way, giving the impression of an endless, extra-dimensional repetition. Recalling Yayoi Kusama's Ladder to Heaven and Nauman's puns, Eternal Contradiction's neon-tubed words "ME" and "WE" form an ad infinitum chain inside a barrel, seemingly descending through the floor. The most successful — and personal — pieces convey a fear of death and political impotence, as in Record, a tunnel of empty shelves in humming, red fluorescent.  - Erin Cowgill

Philip Akkerman

Mummery + Schnelle
Now through April 12

  One could accuse Philip Akkerman of narcissism — after all, he himself is the only subject of more than 2,400 paintings. The Dutch artist has spent the last 27 years producing self-portraits, though his show at London's Mummery + Schnelle focuses on those created between 2005 and 2008. Using oils on Masonite hardboard and techniques favored by the old masters, Akkerman's portraits all feature the same unsmiling expression, but they're anything but monotonous — the lighting changes, his hairstyles differ, and an occasional hat is thrown into the mix. Inspiration comes from fellow countrymen; 2006's No. 82 clearly references van Gogh's Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, while No. 113 from a year earlier is reminiscent of Rembrandt. With skill and stilted deliberation, Akkerman offers viewers a strange and compelling insight into his obsessive self-scrutiny.  - Lucy Davies

Greg Bogin: My Fellow Primates

Galleria Paolo Curti/Annamaria Gambuzzi & Co.
Now through April 11

  New York-based painter Greg Bogin endows the Curti/Gambuzzi Gallery with a futuristic atmosphere, recalling the retro, minimalist mood of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The artist debuts seven large, shimmering canvases, all characterized by audacious shapes and slick veneers from his use of polyurethane resins and automotive paints. Four works, all entitled Distopia, have central, egg-shaped orbs that fade from peach, blue, or lavender to white and similarly graduated borders. In Plight of the Misanthrope, an olive-green circle floats on a rounded, kite-shaped field of orange. With their geometric forms and mechanical perfection, Bogin's paintings oscillate between minimalism, pop art, op art, and '70s graphic design; however, their playful, glittery surfaces belie their darkly toned titles, which proffer a strong critique of contemporary society.  - Chiara Agnello

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[ Mustafa Maluka ]

Mustafa Maluka

With uncompromising allure, Mustafa Maluka's large-scale oil paintings depict chic, imaginary subjects through vibrant color and textured shapes. Maluka grew up in Cape Flats — Cape Town's apartheid-designated, non-white ghetto — and currently lives and works in both South Africa and Europe. After studying graphic design at the Peninsula Technikon, Maluka left his native country for de Ateliers, an independent artist institute in Amsterdam, where he first began to show internationally.

Aestheticizing a transnational and multicultural urban identity, Maluka draws from popular culture and hip-hop for his portraits. Neo-new-wave haircuts, graphic t-shirts, and geometric backdrops frame his sitters and add to their idiosyncratic identities. In Its true, we're always looking out for one another, bubblegum-pink hair and angular patterns betray cartoon influences. Maluka's signature striated faces and deadpan stares, seen in works like I can't believe you think that of me and I'm alright, I feel good, evoke consumer culture with the look of weathered advertisements.

While loosely resembling Andy Warhol's celebrity portraits, Maluka's anonymous characters are his own invention. Culling imagery from fashion magazines and the mass media, Maluka imbues the everyday with a sense of heroism, eschewing the pedestrian in favor of a fierce sense of grandeur. The artist's figures speak to the immigrant experience and recall the multicultural identity he formed as a youth in segregated South Africa.

Maluka's peripatetic life as a DJ and the co-creator of also bears influence on his visual art. With titles that reference song lyrics, his paintings testify to music's capacity to disrupt borders and form connections between marginalized individuals around the world.  - Thomas J. Lax

Mustafa Maluka's work is currently on view in the group show Flow at New York's Studio Museum in Harlem through June 29. His upcoming exhibitions include Youth Portraits at Avanthay Contemporary in Zurich, Switzerland, from April 24 to May 24 and Disguise: The art of attracting and deflecting attention at Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, from May 15 to July 5.

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[ Dana Schutz ]


Dana Schutz

Shortly after New York-based artist Dana Schutz graduated from Columbia University's prestigious MFA program in 2002, she wowed critics and collectors with her first solo show, Frank from Observation, at New York's LFL Gallery. Since then, major institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art have added her colorful, innovative works to their collections. Fresh from her second solo outing at Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin, Schutz spoke to Artkrush editor Paul Laster about her work and a painter's lifestyle.
AK: You've been making art since an early age. How did you develop that passion?

DS: I've always drawn and painted, but I was 15 when I consciously thought for the first time, "I want to be an artist." What most appealed to me at that age was having control over what I put in the space of a painting and the solitary activity of making art. In high school, I painted anytime I got the chance — I would paint during lunch, skip class to paint in a storage closet, and paint every night. I didn't know anything about contemporary art or even that there were living artists; I just assumed you had be dead to be in an art book and that anything you made would have to be discovered one day— maybe in the back of that storage closet.

AK: How do you begin a new piece?

DS: I write a lot, make lists, and draw. I don't draw directly on the canvas, but I make rough thumbnail sketches to figure out the general scale and composition of the final painting. Usually, I start a piece with a wash — I like to paint wet on wet because it keeps things fluid.

AK: Do you keep your preliminary drawings and materials? Have you ever shown them?

keep reading the interview »

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  Karen Kilimnik
Dominic Molon, Karl Holmqvist, and Caoimhin Mac Giolla Lieth

Inspired by fairy tales, pop culture, and the ballet, Karen Kilimnik's enchanting small-scale paintings re-imagine their often famous subjects in glamorous mise-en-scènes. The Philadelphia-based artist paints in the expressive style of the old masters, but turns history on its head by depicting Leonardo DiCaprio as Prince Charming and Paris Hilton as Marie Antoinette. Published on the occasion of the artist's 2006 survey show, which was organized by the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris and London’s Serpentine Gallery, this monograph presents Kilimnik’s theatrical installations, a selection of drawings and pastels from 1985 to 2004, and some 60 paintings. Dominic Molon, associate curator of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, discusses the relationship between Kilimnik’s early installations and her later paintings and how her recent installations interact with their historical environs; artist Karl Holmqvist considers the role of the doppelgänger in Kilimnik’s work; and writer Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith reviews the variety of motifs the artist continues to explore.  - Paul Laster

A separate traveling exhibition, Karen Kilimnik, features a catalogue published by organizer ICA Philadelphia and is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago through June 8.

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Cover Art
Dana Schutz
Spiderman 3, 2008
Oil on canvas
60 x 78 1/4 x 1 1/2 in./ 152.7 x 198.5 x 4 cm
Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Photo: Jochen Littkemann
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

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Marlyne Sahakian
Peter Stepek
Sarah Stephenson

Chiara Agnello
Erin Cowgill
Lucy Davies
Jocelyn K. Glei
Thomas J. Lax
Lauren McKee
Sarah Stephenson

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