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Taona Sonakul – Foto Constructs
On view at Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts
May 11 – June 8, 2012

by Jonathan Beer

Taona Sonakul, Flowers, Photo on Hahnemühle paper, 16 x 20 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2011 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Art)

Taona Sonakul, Flowers, Photo on Hahnemühle paper, 16 x 20 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2011 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Art)

Taona Sonakul’s photographic collages, currently on view at Kathleen Cullen Fine Art, push the boundaries of the established photographic process and question the conceptual differences between painting and photography. The artist, who lives and works in Thailand, uses photography and film extensively in her practice and cites Cubism as a major influence. Sonakul’s pictures are broken into equal sections, her assemblages are sometimes only four photos arranged in a grid, while her larger pieces contain upwards of 50 photographs. In contrast to prevailing photographic work, where composition is considered only with regard to the frame of the viewfinder, Sonakul extends the observation of the initial capture into the final adjustments to her collages. This enriches the definition of contemporary photography by reexamining its standard process with more of a painter’s sensibility.

Both photography and painting rely heavily on composition. The components of painting such as color, tone, line, surface, are ultimately governed and structured by composition. The best ‘composers’ knew this: Mark Rothko , Willem de Kooning and Albert Oehlen are known for their intuitive sense of design. The elements of their paintings float effortlessly in front of the viewer, as if they were destined to hold their positions. Their paintings are the result of a decision making process that is instinctual and unique to each picture, a record of observation and response. Photography values composition no less, but it relies on observation much more than painting, as the composition is captured as opposed to constructed.

Taona Sonakul, Kyoto, Photo on Hahnemühle paper, 16 x 20 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2011 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts)

Taona Sonakul, Kyoto, Photo on Hahnemühle paper, 16 x 20 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2011 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts)

At first glance Sonakul’s collages could be mistaken for typical ‘artsy’ photo collage, each individual photo tastefully chosen and the whole professional presented. On longer inspection each piece reveals a structure built from exquisite combinations. The pictures display a painterly grace similar to the constructed compositions found in aforementioned works by de Kooning or Oehlen.  Her subject matter is grounded to a recognizable reality; the artist focuses on finding or noticing fragments of our world that surprise and captivate. She teases out wonderment from her viewers as they gaze at the unremarkable everyday imagery of the surface of water or a long exposure shot of an urban street scene. The images she selects are abstract at their core, and Sonakul’s highly tuned formal eye seeks out these moments that hover between contexts. The artist’s work is reminiscent of the personal photography of Gerhard Richter, who has been treading similar ground for many years. His massive compendium, Atlas, showcases photographs that also flicker between contextual reality and beautiful abstraction. Sonakul’s ambition places her farther along than Richter in that sense. She challenges herself to build larger compositions based on a variety of enticing moments rather than simply capturing them.

In her picture “Fuzzy June” loops of light are frozen in long exposure shots. They rope the eye into other quadrants of the 42-rectangle grid. We ride a trail of motion and electricity throughout the piece, along for the ride in her proto-cinematic vision. Muted colors of green, blue and yellow flicker and flash on the rich black night sky. Although we recognize the imagery depicted, the individual photos are abstract enough that contextual confinement drops away.

Taona Sonakul, Fuzzy June, Gouttelette on canvas, 35.6 x 49.2 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2009 (Courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts)

Taona Sonakul, Fuzzy June, Gouttelette on canvas, 35.6 x 49.2 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2009 (Courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts)

“Choa Phraya”, one of the largest works in the show, takes its name from the Choa Phraya River in Thailand, the main body of water that flows through Bangkok. Sonakul orchestrated a myriad of photos of the river taken at different times of day into a single piece that reveals a cascade of increasingly beautiful moments. As you study the photos they link aesthetically and associatively; you find sensate moments within our own memories that correspond to the characteristic of the water or the light in each photo.

Taona Sonakul, Choa Phraya, Gouttelette on canvas, 45 x 66 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2009 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Art)

Taona Sonakul, Choa Phraya, Gouttelette on canvas, 45 x 66 inches, 2.5 inch boarder on all sides, 2009 (All images courtesy Kathleen Cullen Fine Art)

Taona Sonakul’s work shares the magic found in observation of the everyday and invites us to always look as we investigate and experience our world. Her collages challenge the finality of the capture and place photography in a more interdisciplinary conversation. She reminds us that the photograph is as malleable as paint and simultaneously broadens the expectations of her medium for photographers and viewers alike.

Alice Neel: Late Portaits & Still Lifes installation shot. (Courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery ©)

Alice Neel: Late Portaits & Still Lifes installation shot. (Courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery ©)

Currently on view at David Zwirner 
May 4 – June 23, 2012

by Lily Koto Olive

Stepping into the Alice Neel exhibition currently on view at David Zwirner felt like I had entered directly into the artist’s psyche and memory banks. The show is sparsely hung with selections from the late artists estate, most being portraits of her friends and cohorts made between 1964 and 1983; the last two decades of Neel’s life as a painter in NYC. Read More

Review of Ken Johnson’s Are You Experienced? How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art (Prestel, 2011)

by Lily Koto Olive 

Originally published by The Brooklyn Rail, March 2012, http://www.brooklynrail.org/2012/03/art_books/margaret-evangeline-shooting-through-the-looking-glass 

Are You Experienced? How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art (Prestel, 2011)

Are You Experienced? How Psychedelic Consciousness Transformed Modern Art (Prestel, 2011)

In Are You Experienced? critic Ken Johnson examines the drug culture of the 1960s and the psychedelic culture it has spawned. Johnson chronicles various artistic movements and media from the 1960s to present day, ranging from Earthworks to cyber-psychedelia, installations to illusionism. As Johnson locates psychedelic consciousness as the origin of art since the 1960s, the nature of psychedelia comes into focus. Johnson brings attention to details that one would notice more in an altered state, such as heightened color, patterns, and grid systems, and the lack of narratives in avant-garde films which focus more on innovative experimental performances. In the sections that address scale and sexual evolution in art, Johnson omits particularly relevant artists and works. Read More

Review of Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass (Charta, 2011)

Originally published by The Brooklyn Rail, March 2012, http://www.brooklynrail.org/2012/03/art_books/margaret-evangeline-shooting-through-the-looking-glass

Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass (Charta, 2011)

Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass (Charta, 2011)

There is something inherently philosophical in the work of Margaret Evangeline. Every project throughout her active career endeavors to examine and reframe her physical and emotional understanding of the world, easily seen in Margaret Evangeline: Shooting Through the Looking Glass. The included texts reveal the wealth of source material that influences her, from film to literature to simply her physical location, yet at a certain point these accompanying texts divulge too much of the mystery, and thus emphasize the over-complication in her oil paintings. The photos and minimal attributions describing the artist’s most streamlined work—the bullet paintings—strike a visual and philosophical sweet spot by showcasing her technical execution and conceptual impetus. Read More

On view at Elizabeth Harris Gallery
February 9 – March 10, 2012

by Jonathan Beer

You are Nature is Brooklyn-based artist Greg Lindquist’s most recent body of work currently on view at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. It is comprised of over 15 paintings completed since 2011, as well as two site specific wall paintings.

Spiderweb (If it's raining, no one can see your tears.) Oil on Linen.16 x 24.5 inches. 2012. (Courtesy of the artist.)

In a departure from Lindquist’s earlier work, this show features pieces more decidedly about painterly exploration than his prior interest in smart picture making. While intellect is surely habitual concern for the artist, the hallmark of this show is his temporary suspension of that theoretical backdrop to find enjoyment and intrigue in the act of painting.
As I viewed Lindquist’s work at the opening I could not help but remember a 1964 interview between Larry Rivers and David Hockney. Rivers asked Hockney which was more important to picture making; making something beautiful or interesting. Hockney replied “‎Perhaps the most beautiful paintings are beautifully interesting.” In the case of Greg Lindquist’s work I believe this principle holds true. Read More

On view at Museum of Modern Art – September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012
by Jonathan Beer

Willem de Kooning. Pink Angels.

On a quiet Sunday morning a buzzing anticipation abounds as museum-goers descend en masse towards the cavernous entrance of the year’s most anticipated show. De Kooning: A Retrospective, on view at the Museum of Modern Art through January 9, has transformed MoMA’s 17,000 square foot sixth floor into a mecca for Willem de Kooning enthusiasts. Nearly 200 paintings occupy every wall, and span every period in the artists’ seven decade career, from his highly technical training at Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Technique to the last paintings of the 1980s.
The exhibition proceeds in a roughly chronological fashion, opening with two early paintings, Seated Man (1939) and Seated Woman (1940), which introduce de Kooning’s continuous journey between the tradition of figuration and avant-garde abstraction. The first room also displays two academic drawings completed as a student at the Rotterdam Academy, irrefutable evidence of the impressive facility he relied on throughout his life. From the onset of his career there are signs of an artist with an endlessly flexible imagination; de Kooning flirts with many styles and subjects, always moving between representation, abstraction, and formal play.
Read More