Call for Entries: "Honoring the Legacy of David Park"

"Untitled," gouache by David Park, gouache on paper, 13.25 x 13.5 inches
Courtesy of Hackett | Mill, representative of the Estate of David Park

Announcing: "Honoring the Legacy of David Park," An Invitational and Juried Exhibition 

The exhibition will run from April 3rd - 28th, 2017 at Santa Clara University

Celebrating the Legacy of David Park will be a two-part exhibition honoring the spirit, influence and artistic legacy of painter David Park (1911-1960). Park, who returned to painting the human figure in an era when abstraction was dominant, was known for paintings that celebrate human dignity and decency. This exhibition is not intended to showcase paintings that simply resemble Park’s works, but rather to honor his legacy of artistic honesty, strong work ethic, and commitment to the figure. This juried show is funded in part by a grant from the Sam Francis Foundation

The works of two invited artists who have looked hard at Park and learned from his example—Jennifer Pochinski and Kyle Staver—will anchor the exhibition. Supporting their contributions will be a juried exhibition featuring between 20 and 25 additional artists.

For more information, and to enter:
Honoring the Legacy of David Park


Follow my bio link to enter: Announcing: "Honoring the Legacy of David Park," An Invitational and Juried Exhibition: The exhibition will run from April 3rd - 28th, 2017 at Santa Clara University. Celebrating the Legacy of David Park will be a two-part exhibition honoring the spirit, influence and artistic legacy of painter David Park (1911-1960). Park, who returned to painting the human figure in an era when abstraction was dominant, was known for paintings that celebrate human dignity and decency. This exhibition is not intended to showcase paintings that simply resemble Park’s works, but rather to honor his legacy of artistic honesty, strong work ethic, and commitment to the figure. This juried show is funded in part by a grant from the Sam Francis Foundation. The works of two invited artists who have looked hard at Park and learned from his example—Jennifer Pochinski and Kyle Staver—will anchor the exhibition. Supporting their contributions will be a juried exhibition featuring between 20 and 25 additional artists. For more information, and to enter: http://bit.ly/davidparkshowapp #davidpark #bayarea #bayareafigurative #santaclara


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‘British Invasion’ at The Museum of Art and History, Lancaster



A stylized Union Jack at the center of Jon Measure's It Is What It Is

Artist David Hockney is both the guiding spirit and social connector behind a smartly engaging exhibition, British Invasion, now on view at MOAH: The Lancaster Museum of Art and History. Featuring the works of 25 British-born artists, the exhibition feels like the work of a cross-cultural autonomous collective. What the artists have in common is simply that they all came to California, perhaps for reasons similar to David Hockney’s. “I was drawn towards California, which I didn’t know,” Hockney once told an interviewer, “because I sensed the place would excite me. No doubt it had a lot to do with sex.”
Speaking of sex, America’s embrace of the original British Invasion of the mid-1960s had quite a bit to do with that as well...
The British Invasion, a cultural phenomenon that brought British rock across the Atlantic to a generation of music-hungry American teenagers, came to a climax on February 9th, 1964. That evening at 8PM an estimated 73 million Americans gathered in front of their mostly black and white TV sets to watch The Beatlesperform five songs. The group’s sheer magnetism—a blend of Continental sex appeal, youthful insouciance and lyric musicality—was potent enough to make America’s patriarchs nervous. The job Elvis had started by shaking his hips—of teaching American teenagers how to shake loose another layer of Puritanical reserve—was being finished by British musicians.
“A lot of people’s fathers had wanted to turn us off,” Paul Mc Cartney later wrote of the Sullivan performance: “They told their kids, ‘Don’t be fooled, they’re wearing wigs.’” Despite their father’s warnings, young Americans went bonkers over The Beatles—soon followed by The Rolling StonesHerman’s HermitsThe Animals and The Who—were the vanguard of a host of “London Swingers” that helped integrate countercultural lifestyles and points of view into the American mainstream. Most Americans were understandably grateful.
The sense of affection has endured—perhaps even grown stronger—over the past five decades. When Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a popular Mojave Desert roadhouse, announced last month on Twitter that Paul McCartney (now 74) would be making an appearance, nearly 1,000 people promptly lined up on the dusty desert road hoping to score a $50.00 ticket. Many ended up listening outside, while a lucky group of 300 that included artist David Hockney, squeezed inside to hear McCartney rock his way through a 19 song set and a triple encore.


PAUL MCCARTNEY VIA TWITTER

It’s poignant to think of Hockney and McCartney, two prime movers of British-American popular culture, sharing a few hours together at a bar in the California desert, such long way—both literally and metaphorically—from the verdant countryside once painted by John Constable. Perhaps this sense of exoticism and distance is the reason why Hockney (and other British artists and cultural figures) have taken such an interest in the Antelope Valley and other California desert regions.


CAROLINE PM JONES
Jumbo Rock, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

The Mojave desert held a special appeal for the author Christopher Isherwood, a pioneering British expat. He liked its “weird vegetation and immense vistas“ and wrote admiringly of “...this untamed, undomesticated, aloof, prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth.” And it was Isherwood who served as a friend and mentor to David Hockney after his arrival in Los Angeles in January of 1964—just a month before The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show—telling him: “Oh David, we’ve so much in common; we love California, we love American boys, and we’re both from the north of England.”

DAVID HOCKNEY
Digital print from the series: 112 L.A. Visitors

As soon as Hockney set up a studio in Los Angeles—where he has lived on and off since his arrival—he became a “must visit” art world connector for Brits and others. His set of video stills, 112 L.A. Visitors records those who stopped by in one period between 1990 and 1991. Some of those portrayed stayed in California and became part of the ongoing cultural hybridization that the MOAH’s exhibition documents.


MOAH, LANCASTER

Getting back to the MOAH’s exhibition and taking it in, it can be challenging to decide precisely what remains “British” in the works of these expats and semi-expats. Many have definitely morphed into Californians, perhaps because some seem to have absorbed a dose of American “forwardness” that has eroded the culturally imposed reserve they might display at home. Still, despite having traded duck ponds for swimming pools and wool sweaters for brightly-hued bathing suits, the artists in this exhibition have retained an admirable depth of cultural sophistication.
Characterizing the artists whose works are on view at MOAH—in general terms—as being both principled and eccentric seems about right. They tend towards being informed, witty and a bit jaundiced, just as you might expect. British Invasion is a large show, filling two floors and 20,000 square feet, but hopefully a sampling of a few notable works will help bring home that point.

David Eddington

David Eddington, who lives and paints in Venice and who has been in the U.S. since 2000, is a recovering realist who is showing a cycle of four large acrylic paintings on the theme of the four seasons. Alternating between very specific representational elements—for example, the skulls and bones of his “Summer”—and the more stylized, spontaneously brushed imagery of his settings, Eddington seems quite comfortable letting his rational and intuitive inclinations collide with each other. The calligraphic, stained acrylic brushstrokes of his “Winter” could have been made by Helen Frankenthaler, but the stark human pelvis that stands in the foreground transforms the scene into an idiosyncratic “vanitas.”

MAX PRESNEILL
RD131. 2016. oil and acrylic on canvas. 58 x 46 inches

Max Presneill, a London-born artist who is the Director/Curator of the Torrance Art Museum, is represented by three abstract paintings that demonstrate the conceptual underpinnings of his work. His working methods—which involve removing, covering and negating—result in a matrix of seemingly casual marks, stains and strokes that evidence the artist’s activist thought processes. Presneill’s canvases embody a paradox: they simultaneously move towards meaning while remaining insistently abstract. To be too specific, they seem to suggest, would be to moralize (or appear authoritative) and that is to be studiously avoided.

TREVOR NORRIS
Detail of a work by Trevor Norris

There is perhaps a similar reticence in the painting/collages of Trevor Norris, which bring together linear abstraction with snippets of text taken from the artist’s written recollections of childhood memories. It’s as if Norris wants to tell us about himself, but not over-burden us: he has retained his proper British manners.

KATE SAVAGE
One of Kate Savage’s paintings and the “hair hat” that inspired it.

Kate Savage—born in Sussex, England, and raised between the Hudson Valley and Greenwich Village, New York by two visual artists—is represented by a portrait and related headdress from her Ageless series. Interested in “cultural extensions and their symbolic baggage” Savage’s works have their deep roots in the British sense of class distinction which she has brought forward to morph into a more contemporary set of concerns with female identity and personal psychology.
Strikingly similar concerns—the re-framing of artifacts relating to women’s experience in past culture—animate the “metaphysical surgery” depicted in Sarah Danay’s Tourniquet. Danay’s work manages to be, among other things, grim, poignant and graceful.

SARAH DANAYS
Tourniquet, 2007

Jon Measures—an artist, graphic designer, illustrator and educator—has provided British Invasion with a tour de force: It Is What It Is. An assemblage of forward-thrusting collage paintings that are vitalized by a distinctive graphic energy, It Is What It Is combines digitally edited photos layered and tweaked into collages of life in Los Angeles: Measures describes his process as “ a hybrid between painting, photography, digital art and collage.” There is considerable ambivalence in Measure’s view of his adopted home town and its unsustainable modes of life.

JON MEASURES
It Is What It Is

As the title of Measure’s grouping suggests, there is wisdom in just accepting Southern California for what it is, while remaining conscious that it’s vitality is a kind of beautiful/awful mirage that is sprawling and crawling towards the desert.
Making the drive out to the MOAH in Lancaster to see British Invasion will reinforce that point beautifully.
British Invasion
November 19, 2016 - January 22, 2017
Artists:
Shiva Aliabadi, Phil Argent, Derek Boshier, Jane Callister, Sarah Danays, David Eddington, Colin Gray, Andrew Hall, David Hockney, Caroline Jones, Jeremy Kidd, Siobhan McClure, Jon Measures, Nathaniel Mellors, Graham Moore, Trevor Norris, Rhea O’Neill, Max Presneill, Kate Savage, James Scott, Gordon Senior, Dave Smith, Roni Stretch, Philip Vaughn and Eleanor Wood,
British Invasion will be on display from November 19 to January 22.

Kurt Solmssen: ‘Real World’ at LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe

LEWALLEN GALLERIES
Sunrise Interior, Oil On Linen, 68 in x 68 in.
Artist Kurt Solmssen, whose paintings are currently on view at the LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe, paints light-filled images of his life in Vaughn, Washington, a pine-studded coastal town on the Puget Sound. Broadly brushed and carefully composed, Solmssen’s paintings—set both indoors and outside—artfully record and poeticize the light and shadows that color his everyday life.
John Seed Interviews Kurt Solmssen
PHOTO: REBECCA SCHOFIELD
Kurt Solmssen
When and where did you get your start as an artist?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. At the age of 20, I decided that I wanted to go to art school. I looked at a few schools and then saw a small catalog that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had published about its faculty. There was one image per artist and a short bio. In this, I saw the work of Ben Kamihira, Sidney Goodman, Elizabeth Osborne, Arthur De Costa, Louis Sloan and other great artists. I was extremely impressed by that and decided to go to the PAFA.
LEWALLEN GALLERIES
Reflections, Oil On Linen, 50 in x 70 in.
Tell me about the Academy and how your work developed there
Looking back, I see that the early 1980’s was a wonderful time to be at The Pennsylvania Academy. The same faculty and the focus on painting, drawing, sculpture and print making that has attracted me, had attracted others, of various ages, who were passionate about learning to be artists. I was side by side with students who have become some of the finest figurative artists of the present day.
In those days, The Academy owned an old hotel on Chestnut St which was used for faculty and student private studios. If you were awarded your own studio (they were hotel rooms so they came with a bathroom and bathtub!) then one had a working space on floors along side the teachers and they would come around on their scheduled critiques.
Some of these colleagues of mine had attended other schools and already had skills far beyond mine, which were pretty unformed. I was eager to produce works of art and found that being outside, painting on my own, was very enjoyable. I had seen a big George Inness show at the National Gallery in 1979 and was impressed by that.
As a former high school football player, the one thing that I could do best, I reasoned, was to stay out in the bitter cold and paint the Winter landscape. I had seen some remarkable paintings by Edward Willis Redfield that he did all at one go in the Pennsylvania Winter. I liked working big and on location. Another artist that I looked at then was Wolf Kahn.
LEWALLEN GALLERIES
Yellow Boat Evening, Oil on linen, 24 in x 28 in.
I understand that you moved around a bit after graduation...
Sometime after graduating from art school, I saw a retrospective of Fairfield Porter’s work and loved that. I liked the way that he handled the paint, the freshness of the color and the fact that he used his family, friends and daily life as his subjects.
In 1986, My wife, Rebecca Schofield, and I lived and worked in Spain for 6 months and later, we painted for two months in Florida. In 1988, we moved to the Puget Sound. I built a studio and we moved into a house on the water that my mother’s parents had owned and had left to her.
LEW ALLEN GALLERIES
Bayside Porch, Oil on linen, 50 in x 70 in.
Who are some of your most important influences?
I often wonder what kind of paintings I would be doing, or if I would be painting at all, if I had gone to a different art school and had other teachers: in Kansas City or at CAL ARTS for example. Growing up in Philadelphia and then attending PAFA, I was surrounded by these great works of art by Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, William Trost Richards, George Bellows etc. I looked at “The Fox Hunt” by Winslow Homer, almost every day when I was a student because it was up on the wall in the PAFA museum next to where we had the school studios.
LEW ALLEN GALLERIES
Boat Houses, Oil on linen, 24 in x 36 in.
Tell me about your current work
The paintings in this show at the LewAllen Galleries are landscapes, and figures in interiors in all four seasons. They are all painted in and around our home on the Puget Sound and are painted from life. I like to show paintings from over a period of time so that each painting is about a certain time and place. I am bored by shows that look like the paintings were all lined up in the studio and worked on at the same time. I hope that the paintings in this show stand on their own. That’s something that Ben Kamihira said to me: “every painting has to stand or succeed on its own”
PHOTO: REBECCA SCHOFIELD
Painting the Davis House
Can you walk me through one or two paintings?
My Facebook profile picture is a snap shot that Becky took of me starting the painting “The Davis House.” I have two canvases propped up on the ground to make a diptych. I started painting big diptychs one winter while working on another painting of the Davis House. I had been trying fit everything into one 50” x 70” canvas.
One day, it was snowing, and I wanted to show all the area over the water. I realized that, as Antonio Lopez Garcia demonstrates in his multiple panel paintings, sometimes we have to turn our heads to take in whole subject . I had learned and been taught to focus in on a composition within a wide landscape but in this case, I wanted to see all of the wide view. So I went back to the studio and grabbed a canvas the same height but not as long, of a sunrise through fog, and put it on the left side, sitting on the ground next to the other canvas and painted the snow over the water on that.
In this “Davis House” painting, you see me in mid winter, starting the painting with big brushes and a lot of warm ochres because the sun was low and illuminating a lot of the foreground.
I had to go to the east coast to do sculpture conservation work (more on that later) and when I returned, I changed the painting to a Summer morning, bringing cool shadows across much of the painting. All the warm underpainting allowed me to keep the shadow areas feeling lit, and not too dark, the way it really feels in Summer here. I also rowed our yellow boat down there and painted it into the picture.
PHOTO: REBECCA SCHOFIELD
Sunrise Interior (Installation View)
PHOTO: KURT SOLMSSEN
Sunrise Interior (Underpainting)
Another painting that I can tell you something about is “Sunrise Interior” I have done several big paintings of the sunrise and sunsets coming UP off the water and illuminating the front room of our house. I had been wanting to paint my older daughter with her new baby but was worried about the paint fumes.
One morning , around Thanksgiving, as the sun was coming up, I saw that the sunrise light was so strong, that I could stand outside on the porch and look in through the window even though double paned windows reflect a lot of light…. this particular time of day, I could see through perfectly well!
My daughter was not able to sit for long and the painting became a lot about that sunrise illuminating the room, and her, and the baby. The first day, I used big brushes, Cremnitz white, naples yellow and a little quinacridone rose and some green painters tape (for concrete,brick and grout!) to block in the light and shadow. From that basic, very simple layout, I work towards some kind of focus.
LEWALLEN GALLERIES
Marsha in the Sun, Oil on linen, 24 in x 26 in.
I understand that in addition to being a painter you have a background in art restoration
When I was a student at PAFA , the PAFA museum decided to restore its entire sculpture collection, one of the best collections of American sculpture anywhere. Bronze, marble, plaster, terra cotta, wood, steel etc. Under the supervision of Virginia Naude, I helped to restore that collection. Later, and for the past 36 years, I have worked for Steve Tatti, restoring and maintaining the sculptures in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia as well as public and private collections and museum collections in New York, Washington DC , Baltimore, Storm King, NY and other places.
This restoration work has allowed me to see and to protect and preserve some of the most beautiful works of art in the world and to see parts of the art world that I would not have been exposed to. When I travel to each city, I look up what shows are up and go see them. Most recently, I saw a great show in LA at the Getty called “London Calling.”
Real World: Recent Paintings by Kurt Solmssen September 30 – November 6, 2016 LewAllen Galleries 1613 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Interrupted Images: Discombobulation in Painting is Definitely a Thing








DOLBY CHADWICK GALLERY
Kai Samuels-Davis, In Darkness Apparent, 2015 I Oil on panel I 40 x 30 inches
When an invitation for a show by Kai Samuels-Davis recently appeared in my inbox, I had an immediate reaction to his work: “This artist is definitely a discombobulator." 

Yes, an explanation is in order.
“Discombobulation” in painting is a trend that was first noticed and named by artist F. Scott Hess. Scott has been lecturing about movement in painting, and during a talk I attended at the John Natsoulas Gallery in 2013 he applied the term both to his own work and to the works of several other contemporary painters. As Scott explained it, discombobulation refers to paintings that have a distinct sense of visual interruption.
Sometimes the interruptions are related to perception—caused by movement, multiple points of view or shifts in light or focus—or sometimes they are conceptual, resulting from self-conscious decisions made by an artist for stylistic reasons. Sometimes they are both, so it seems possible that some painters might indeed be called Perceptual/Conceptual Discombobulators. Yikes!
The dictionary definition of discombobulation is “to confuse or frustrate” and to a degree that is what discombobulated paintings do: they frustrate any attempt at easy scanning and recognition of imagery. The resulting sensation of “canvas interruptus” creates a kind of frission that can generate aesthetic pleasure. More about that later...
Discombobulated images can be dense, suggestive, confusing and potentially damned interesting. You might say that Paul Cezanne—who recognized the “petit sensation” generated by each brushstroke—is the great-grandfather of discombobulation, but there are certainly many other modern and contemporary artists whose works have played with the rich possibilities of visual interruption.
Styles that deal with simultaneity—notably Cubism and Futurism—certainly have an aspect of discombobulation, as do Expressionist works that have bold, disruptive brushwork. The Italian Futurist Boccioni, for example, was an excellent early discombobulator. Boccioni and his fellow Futurists wanted to depict the dynamism of modern life so it’s natural that a sense of interruption and dislocation characterized their compositions.
VON DER HEYDT MUSEUM, WUPPERTAL
Umberto Boccioni, Visioni simultanee, 1912,

Contemporary discombobulation—let’s say from the past decade—seems to have its sources in postwar European painting, particularly in the exquisitely self-conscious paintings of the late Euan Euglow (1932-2000). A meticulous and fidgety painter who often left traces of geometric markings on his finished figures, Euglow’s works have what artist Vincent Desiderio calls a “narrative of creation,” meaning that appreciating his works involves noticing and appreciating the sense of effort and correction that went into making them. In other words, looking at the Euglow nude below won’t give you an instant and easy image of a human figure: you’ll have to work a bit to also understand all the gives and takes that went into seeing, measuring and painting it. You share the artist’s perceptual struggles and grapple with the underlying geometries that he insinuates.
Euan Uglow, Female Figure Standing by a Heater, 1952

You could certainly argue that Willem de Kooning was a discombobulator—an Abstract Expressionist Discombobulator—but the reason I am linking the contemporary development of all this to Uglow is that the traditional rendering skills apparent underneath his work provide a kind of coherence and rigor that set the stage for what representational artists seem to be doing now. There are more and more academically trained, representational artists these days who are looking for ways to have it both ways: to make paintings that display their training while also asserting their freedom to work against their skills. I often hear the prediction that ateliers and traditionalist art schools are going to produce students who dull, constrained work, and discombobulation is one way of proving the doubters wrong.
”There’s a certain denial built into discombobulated work.” observes painter Karen Kaapcke. “I think it’s also a response on the part of artists working in the figurative tradition to the question of how one can work figuratively right now. You’re doing it and not doing it at the same time.”
DOLBY CHADWICK GALLERY
Alex Kanevsky, Professor Charles Gallagher vacationing in New England, 2015 | Oil on panel | 18 x 18 inches

Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco strikes me as being the epicenter of discombobulation. Two of the artists that show there—Alex Kanevsky and Ann Gale—are among my personal picks as the masters of this approach. Kanevsky is a wonderful risk-taker whose paintings are full of slippery and satisfying disjunctions. His best works have a sense of immense skill lurking beneath a luxurious incoherence. In a 2012 interview with Neil Plotkin, Kanevsky stated: “I always want to function at the edge of my current abilities to keep things exciting. There should always be a danger of a painting crashing and burning.”
DOLBY CHADWICK GALLERY
Ann Gale, Shawna in Lines, 2016 | Oil on canvas | 58 x 44 inches

Ann Gale is apparently a perceptual discombobulator (sorry Ann!) whose rigorous atomized brushwork is a record of her constant need to adjust:
“My interest in the elusive sensation of light and the shifting presence of the figure has lead me to reexamine color relationships that are not contained within figure or object.  Though these adjustments help me to be more specific, they often do not produce a smooth rendering.” 
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
F. Scott Hess,Table #58, 2013, oil on canvas

A few years ago, when Scott Hess was making discombobulated paintings, he used intentionally botched iPhone panorama shots as his source material. These photos gave him not only an easy source of perceptual glitches, but also a conceptual tie to digital imagery. In Scott’s skilled hands the results are gently humorous and pleasantly perplexing. While making them Scott delved into neuroscience and developed some personal ideas as to why discombobulation could be so satisfying:
Discombobulation creates an embodied empathy in the viewer. It works on two levels;
1) We feel the marks that made the image. As in Van Gogh or Soutine, this discombobulation engenders a powerful response where the painter’s stroke is re-enacted in the viewer’s mind.
2) The brain prefers smooth surfaces and only wants to work at the edges of forms. That is the default mode of the brain. It is computer-like, compressing the areas that it doesn’t need to analyze, like the smoother central sections of a form. It only notes change, discrepancy. When faced with a disintegrating form, like a De Kooning or a Kanevsky, it has to go into overtime. I think the aesthetic pleasure one derives from this type of work depends on whether your brain enjoys the extra work load or not.
It’s hard to say where this is all going, but I’m seeing enough work in this vein to declare that discombobulation is definitely a trend. Grammarians, help me out: does that now mean that Discombobulation should be capitalized? Would that officially make it a style?
As more artists work this way there will certainly be some bad work showing up: it isn’t too hard to just pick up a squeegee and go all Gerhard Richter on a failing figure painting, right? On the other hand, some of the work I am seeing is pretty interesting. There is an exciting give and take going on in discombobulated paintings that gives them a sense of life, of danger even.
I remember reading once that the French painter Ingres was praised for making figures so smooth that they seemed to be “carved out of butter.” I’m sure that the chilliness of that approach is partly what Cezanne and the discombobulators who followed him were rebelling against. Sometimes the right interruption—in art and in life—is the wake up call we all need.

Walter Robinson: A Passion for Normcore





COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
The Eager Ones, 1979
Walter Robinson, the painter, critic and former editor of Artnet Magazine, is currently having a show at the newly re-opened Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York City. Titled “Paintings and Other Indulgences,” it is the first full survey of Robinson’s paintings—it features 94 works made between 1979 and 2014—and was curated by Barry Blinderman.
Robinson, who, according to the exhibition’s press release, addresses “the collision of capital and everyday cravings in a media-saturated world,” is an unassuming yet influential art world figure. “Generosity and humility combined with humor and intelligence are rare traits in artists,” comments artist and writer Carol Diehl, who has known Robinson since the early days. “At least there is one, and he’s getting his due.”
 His pulp fiction inspired images of sexy doctors and nurses came years before Richard Prince’s nurses, and Robinson made his first “spin” paintings at age seven, beating Damien Hirst by decades. Robinson the critic coined the very apt and funny phrase “Zombie Formalism,” while making salient points about the vapidity of art made for the speculative market.The Post-Pop imagery that established Robinson’s reputation is both affectionate and funny. Robinson has a genuine passion for mainstream American culture—and its relative blandness—and for the “normcore” acoutrements of American fashion.
John Seed Interviews Walter Robinson

PHOTO: AYN S. CHOI
Walter Robinson

Walter, where and how did you grow up?
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which though it may seem like a “western” or “southern” state was in fact Suburbia, USA, or at least it was in my lily-white neighborhood. Ranch-style houses, green lawns, shopping centers. We rode bikes without wearing helmets, and played baseball in the vacant lots.
My father was a civil engineer who worked for Dupont, my mother raised me and my three younger siblings, and later went back to work as a social psychologist. High school was like high school everywhere — S.E. Hinton did a good job capturing the Tulsa scene in her book “The Outsiders,” which Francis Ford Coppola made into a movie. Ever see that? Also “Rumblefish.”

COURTESY JEFFREY DEITCH
Amy’s Veggie Burger

When did you know you were an artist? 
When I turned 60?
Actually one of my earliest memories is being the kid in kindergarten who could draw. I’d draw high-noon showdowns. The sheriff wore a star and the bad guy a black bandanna. I remember putting both the star and the bandana on one character, which must have been the beginning of my avant-garde career.
Another early memory is my discovery of abstraction at age 7 in 1957, when I made my first spin painting on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ.
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Amboy Dukes, 1981

Tell me about getting started as an artist and your early days in the East Village
The 1980s, when my painting career really began (in the ‘70s I was experimenting with super-8 films, and publishing Art-Rite, our own ‘zine), are basically a blur. I remember borrowing a friend’s loft to paint a series of five large — 9 x 9 ft, and 9 x 12 ft. — paintings on dropcloths for the 1983 Terminal Show in Brooklyn. They hung like great banners from a pedestrian bridge that crossed the huge atrium of the concrete Art Brut building. That’s not much of an anecdote. Maybe Carlo McCormick could give you a better one: he was an East Village celebrity and I was his driver.
I had shown my paintings first at Metro Pictures in SoHo, but then I met and started hanging out with the gang in the East Village, and when the dealers there — like Piezo Electric and Semaphore Gallery — asked me to show, I went ahead and did it. Perhaps I should have focused more on Metro, but what the hell, we exhibited freely in group shows at various galleries, in exhibitions at nightclubs and bars. I realized that the East Village had really come of age when Carlo McCormick arranged a series of 10 one-night shows at the Limbo Lounge on East 10th Street. If ten artists could drag their stuff to that coffee shop, install it for a day and then take it away, making room for the next artist, I knew that the East Village had energy to burn. 
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Lube Lands, 1985

You have said you are into “norm-core.” Tell me about what that means in regards to your paintings.
Normcore is actually a word from the fashion industry, and it refers to clothes with no real style. Notable would be Lands’ End and L.L.Bean, I think, simple middle-class gear with no pretense towards chic or vanguardism. The advertisements for this kind of clothing, either mail-order catalogues or newspaper inserts (and now emails), appealed to me as a kind of anti-art, and anti-kitsch, too — in other words, the least desirable, most transitory kind of imagery you could think of, something that was practically invisible. So I started using these bland fashion shots as the source for figurative paintings. It’s a special type of imagery — models selling clothes.
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Plaid Shirt

They connect to the viewer, they instigate a back-and-forth dynamic that is typically different and more aggressive than ordinary paintings, which just sit there on the wall to be looked at. The imagery has already been designed — the outfits have been designed, the models have been made up, the poses have been perfected. It’s market-ready. In addition this material is segmented by season, by age, by gender. So you can have girls selling down coats and knit caps in winter, or women selling bikinis in the summer, or men selling suits at any time. The body is also segmented in these advertisements by the various products they’re selling; you have images of men’s shorts, for instance, or ladies’ shoes.
An example in the retrospective at Deitch is “Shoes,” 2014, which shows a row of tasseled loafers — they could be Tod’s, I don’t remember — in various colors. It’s like Ellsworth Kelly. Another subcategory of the normcore paintings are the paintings of folded shirts. For me they were an excuse to make an essentially abstract painting, a painting with stripes or colorful geometric shapes. The white shirt is supposed to be like a Robert Ryman.
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Shoes

Peter Schjeldahl says that your work has a sense of “innocence” about it. Is he right?
Whatever Peter says, I agree with.
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Vick’s Vaporub

As a critic you have lamented the “market model.” Do you have any hope that the model is changing for the better? 
Did I lament the market model?
Actually, I think as a critic I took more interest in the market than most other commentators, who tend to dismiss it in disgust. In fact it’s fascinating, the interplay between esthetics, art history, the construction of opinion and the art market. I like to think of auction prices, say, as an arbitrary but clear measure of the value of an artwork. It’s a completely different standard than critics’ opinions of an artwork’s quality, which is very subjective and uncertain. Most of the time, the opinions of most art lovers are being formed and constrained by market forces they’re not even aware of.
What’s that Marxian saying; “Better attend to the invisible hand of the market, because the invisible hand of the market is certainly attending to you!”
COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Spin Paintings

Whose work do you like right now? 
Oh, well, when I was an editor and art writer, I was allowed to like many many things, it was my job to be open-minded. Now that I’m an artist, I have no interest at all in anything by other artists. 
PHOTO BY ADAM REICH COURTESY OF JEFFREY DEITCH
Installation View

What are your personal interests and causes outside the realm of art? 
Vote the chick not the dick! 
Anything else that needs to be said? 
Be sure to see it: the exhibition is on view through Oct. 17.

PHOTO: KATYA KAZAKINA
Exhibition View

Walter Robinson: Paintings and Other Indugences (A Retropsective)
Curated by Barry Blinderman
September 17 - October 22, 2016
Jeffrey Deitch Gallery
18 Wooster Street
New York