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by N. F. Karlins
|The Poetry of Pigment
Some conceptual artworks tend to be chilly, but those of Suzanne Caporael are lush and inviting. "Suzanne Caporael: Works on Paper," now at Karen McCready Fine Art in Chelsea, consists of abstract images from an extensive series that examines pigments and the chemical elements that are combined to make them.
Applications of gouache are painted in small blocks of color, one for each element in a specific pigment. The resulting pigment is painted on a shape made from combining these smaller blocks.
Each of Caporael's goauches is a kind of abstract portrait of a single pigment. She begins by painting several rectangular shapes, with each shape based on a stanza of poetry as printed on a page. She paints each shape with the color of the original pigment's separate constituent elements from the Periodic Table. The pigment ultramarine, for instance, is composed of silicon, aluminum, sulfur, sodium and oxygen. Then, in a second sheet, Caporael adds the shapes together into a single new form that is titled with the name of the pigment.
In cogitating on the chemistry and poetry, she has managed to conjure up drawings that are richly colored and delicately nuanced. Color seeps from the delineated areas, as if something deep inside the stanzas were trying to escape, impossible to hold.
The paper -- sometimes the page of a book -- used as a support is washed with thinned gouache, then the blocked areas are stroked again and again, building up layers of color. One particularly effective piece, almost poignant, is Study for Cobalt Blue, a pair of gouaches painted on the two halves of an old glassine book cover.
Carporael, who produced figurative works in the 1980s, credits her interest in the periodic table on John McPhee's book Basin and Range. Whether or not you care that cadmium red consists of cadmium, selenium and sulfur, you will most likely enjoy her interpretation of the facts.
"Works on Paper by Suzanne Caporael," Dec. 9,1999-Feb. 5, 2000, at Karen McCready Fine Art, 425 West 13th Street, New York, N.Y. 10014.
The late Martin Kippenberger -- the German "bad boy" artist -- appropriated everything he could get his hands on. A polymath who died in 1997 at the young age of 43, Kippenberger did installations, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture that ran the gamut from Dada and Pop to Expressionism. He freely mixed and matched styles as he went and made fun of everything along the way. He also was an avid collector, curator and musician.
It is too bad that he never settled down and concentrated on drawing. His draughtsmanship was quite exceptional, as is proven by his current show of drawings and collages at the Nolan/Eckman Gallery in SoHo.
Kippenberger was a great traveler and lived in several cities in and outside of Germany, which may have been why he started executing series of sketches on hotel stationery. The images on display come from a series devoted to pencil heads of physicists, hot-colored abstractions, drawings of paintings from Frank Sinatra albums and loopy self-portraits, among others. The use of the stationery infuses the works with an additional spatial dimension. Perfect for an artist who never wanted to be tied down, but who dared to try to encompass the whole world.
For his multi-layered collages, Kippenberger designed his own "I love" stencils, the kind with a big red heart in the center. Sometimes there are also what he called "Martin" stamps with Disneyesque characters. In the largest collage on display, he exposes himself, literally, in a drawing in a rumpled bed surrounded by appropriated photo images and a variety of "I love" bumper stickers. The amoeboid contours of the piece seem to imply that the artist is the progenitor of the over-lapping and explosive realms of "love" that surround him.
Here's to Kippenberger's unbridled and uninhibited talent!
"Martin Kippenberger: Drawing & Collage," Dec. 9, 1999-Feb. 5, 2000, at Nolan/ Eckman, 560 Broadway.
A different type of celebration is taking place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the American Wing: Notable Acquisitions 1980-1999" highlights almost 20 years of donations in honor of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the wing. The Met has interspersed these works among the others in the American Wing, identifying them with a circular blue symbol. Searching out these pieces is a good way to get reacquainted with some old friends and make some new ones.
Several wonderful samplers, including one from Missouri, a japanned tall case clock, a Tiffany Studios window titled Dogwood, and a splashy John Singer Sargent portrait, Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, are standouts. This installation will be up through Nov.12, 2000, except for the light-sensitive drawings, which are on view on the mezzanine only through March 26, 2000.
Perhaps the most flamboyant of the drawings is Mary Cassatt's gorgeous turquoise, pink and white pastel of Adeline Havemeyer in a White Hat. Not far away is another noteworthy pastel, a bewigged gentleman by John Singleton Copley. Between the two, tucked into a vitrine, is a sketchbook of William Trost Richards showing the Pacific Northwest. On display is a lively pencil drawing of a lumber camp with log cabin amid towering trees.
Many works of historical importance are here, like John Vanderlyn's Study for The Landing of Columbus, for his mural in the Capitol rotunda. Among the most interesting are the most unexpected. Henry Farrer's Winter Scene in Moonlight is surprisingly Rousseau-like with its eerily backlit skeletal trees.
My favorite is an early Winslow Homer drawing of two boys carrying A Basket of Clams (1873). Behind them on the sand is a sprawled fishing boat. Before them is an equally sprawled, beached, dead (or soon-to-be dead) fish. The cheery twosome ignores them both and trudges on.
"Celebrating the American Wing: Notable Acquisitions 1980-1999," Nov. 10, 1999-Nov. 12, 2000, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.
N. F. KARLINS writes Artnet.com's regular column on drawings.