July 2008 Archives

Into the Woods


The invitations have been coming on strong lately for some reason. The summer is supposed to be the art world's off season, but suddenly everyone's found my e-mail address; maybe it's because of all the group shows, which means more artists, which means more people trying to get obscure bloggers to write about them. I've tried to keep up with the invitations but I missed a couple of shows, alas. Then again, one of them was from a photographer, and he said he liked my blog, which leads me to believe he's never read it, because anyone who's read my blog knows how I feel about photography. On the other hand, his photos were of naked women, so maybe he does read my blog.

Not only are there invitations coming in but I'm also finding shows to go to. This time, I picked Elisabeth Condon because she commented on Stephanie's blog and her work looked interesting online. Her paintings are part of a group show, Into the Woods, at the Arsenal in Central Park. Elisabeth didn't publicize her show or ask anyone to go; I just followed along from her comment to find her site, was intrigued, and decided to go.

Elisabeth Condon, Woods, 2007, oil and acrylic on linen, 24x24 inches

Elisabeth Condon, Woods, 2007, oil and acrylic on linen, 24x24 inches

Unfortunately I found Elisabeth's works, at least the ones in this show, disappointing. It looks like she starts with a wonderfully abstract background, all full of spreading paint and swirls and drips and pours, which she then takes as inspiration to draw over. The trouble is her draftsmanship isn't that great. The physical action of the paint underneath her drawings is much, much stronger and more exciting than he more labored, obvious work above it. An unrelated series of paintings on her Website is titled "Seuss Dynasty," but Elisabeth lacks the lightness of touch of either Ted Geisel or Chinese porcelain. Reduced down to a JPEG, or maybe glanced at from across the room, her overpaintings appear deft enough, but standing right in front I found them clumsy.

Kurt Lightner, Settle, 2007, acrylic, collage on panel, 55.5x72 inches

Kurt Lightner, Settle, 2007, acrylic, collage on panel, 55.5x72 inches

Only a few other works jumped out at me in this show. There were a couple of really great brass eagles, but they weren't part of the show, just part of the old Arsenal building. Kurt Lightner's paintings caught me eye; they're not as good as I want them to be, and they play around the same ground as Elisabeth's, but they come together better. Kurt apparently paints on Mylar and collages the pieces together, and then paints over them. The effect is good and his sense of composition is pretty good.

The best work in the show, however, belongs to Kim Krans. I couldn't find a Website for her or any images online of the works in this show, which is a shame, because it's really excellent. If I just list her materials here, you might be horrified -- ink, gouache, spray paint, glitter, fur and glue on paper -- but she puts all of it together beautifully. In fact these three small works are mostly gouache on black paper, where the paint contrasting with the ground is meant to evoke the bark of a tree stump. The other ingredients are just, we might say, supporting players. Each piece is small, maybe 11 by 14 inches, maybe 14 by 18 -- I'm not a great judge of size -- but lyrical in its abstraction from reality. Each one isn't so much abstract, actually, as distilled; the essence of tree stump, with all the years of treeness, and all the sense of decay and renewal wrapped up in that. While all the other pieces in the show seemed to be there because they incidentally involved trees -- the show is called Into the Woods, after all -- only Kim's pieces really address the idea of trees, the importance of trees, and the impermanence of those seemingly most permanent of plants.

I wanted to talk to Elisabeth, to let her know I'd come to her show, and to Kim, to whisper that I liked her paintings best, but none of the women handing out drinks could tell me who was who, or even where the bathroom was. I didn't feel up to introducing myself to random people, so instead I left, and in honor of Central Park and the trees, took the long walk along 59th Street back to the bus station.


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