Restraint&Limitation Exhibition at Mizzou

I have curated an exhibition at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at the University of Missouri called Restraint&Limitation. This show features the work of Anna Buckner, Sharon Butler, and Gianna Commito, along with some people with connections to Columbia, Missouri – Hali Oberdiek, Jessica Thornton, Elise Rugolo, Lauren Steffens, and Jennifer Ann Wiggs.

Lauren Steffens’s floor piece, Rugolo’s encaustic work, and Gianna Commito’s sharp-edged abstraction in the exhibition.

It is a spare, economically arranged show. It’s openness grew out of my musings on abstraction of all sorts. I have long felt that bigger is not really better when it comes to abstraction, and I set out to bring together just a few examples of works that do this. Here is my curatorial statement for the show (a text/painting pair) with a number of shots of the installation interspersed. There will be a catalog of this exhibition available soon.

Detail shot of Ballou’s Curator’s Statement.

Curator’s Statement for Restraint and Limitation

Contemporary abstraction is a huge, multifaceted project.  From Katharina Grosse, Julie Mehretu, or El Anatsui to Cordy Ryman, Odili Donald Odita, or Amy Sillman, the range of potential and diversity of referent available to artists is obvious.

There are no clear boundaries, no distinct definitions that provide a unified perspective on the practice of abstract painting. That contemporary abstraction utilizes the history, physical interactions, and conceptual structure of painting is axiomatic. Yet to suggest that it is limited to the realm of painting is a dramatic misunderstanding.

Detail of Anna Buckner’s Dutch Still Life.

The old discourse that endlessly returns to the interplay between abstraction and representation has lost any potency to report on what is actually happening in much of contemporary abstraction. With this exhibition, I hope to present a sliver-like view into the modes of abstraction that intersect with painting as a form and which, in unique ways, demonstrate the limitations of depiction and representation to clarify the kinds of experiences that abstraction affords us. I also seek to show how smaller works may defy the conceit that abstraction is most powerful in its more monumental expressions.

Commito and Buckner works hanging in the show.

A side view of Butler’s four goodmorningdrawings and their presentation.

The three primary artists here are women from different stages of their careers. They show commitment to the aesthetics and procedures inherent in painting practice today, yet bring diverse pressures to the form. Buckner – a newly minted MFA – pieces scraps of fabric into small, taut grid fields. Butler – with decades of art making and writing behind her – brings us small digital drawings created on her iPhone. Commito – a mid-career educator and artist with broad impact – focuses on sharp geometries and wonderful chromatic synergies. Their influences – ranging from post-paint materiality to provisionality to traditional hard-edged painting – form an invigorating view into a restrained yet evocative corner of artmaking.

 

Detail of an Elise Rugolo work.

Grouping of Wiggs pieces, with Commito off to the right.

Post Script ~

I was particularly excited to have Butler in this exhibition – ten years ago we participated in an online “shared critique” event that took place on the now defunct Thinking About Art blog. I was writing about the work of someone else, but Butler was assigned to write about one of my paintings. I thought her response sharp, knowledgeable, and strong. Though she did seem to dismiss that work, I was pleased to have her voice address my art making, and I have followed her closely ever since. Her art making, writing, and blogging – especially with the influential site Two Coats of Paint – are important. I’m really glad to have be a part of this.

Another view of the installation of Butler’s works.

Advertisements

LEGO Sculptures on display

Thirty-four of my LEGO sculptures, created 2010-2017, are on display at the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at the University of Missouri right now. These include five bronze pieces as well.

Since I was a child, LEGOs have been a staple in my creative habits. Often, when I am met with some creative block, when I am disillusioned, or when I simply need a change, LEGOs are my go-to outlet. They offer a kind of open-ended opportunity to make things without any conceits or justifications. Usually, at least for me, this kind of building amounts to a formal exercise within certain boundaries. After all, LEGOs are a finite tool. They have limited application and range. In spite of this, however, they allow for many hours of engagement and a diversity of resolution. LEGOs really are a creative partner in my life.

 

Over the last 10 years or so I’ve been interested in a number of practitioners of contemporary sculpture and their work has influenced how I have played with my LEGOs. First and foremost is Vincent Fecteau, who crafts strange, small sculptures that exhibit a wonderful sense of hidden interior space. Additionally, Barry Le Va’s dark and geometric wall and floor installations (and the awesome drawings for those installations) are also important to me. Didier Vermeiren’s solemn, dense sculptural works manifest a kind of austerity and clarity that challenges me. These artists (among many others) inspire me to play with associations of form and color, as well as with the implications of scale. Fecteau in particular has strongly influenced all of my work over the last 6 or 8 years. 

The sculptures collected here, both those made of standard LEGOs and those crafted in bronze, are meant to function like poems of form: slight, strange, awkward, yet solid in a sense. In them I have gone through an iterative process of placement and association. In my mind, it’s all shape dynamics and formal play. These miniatures have stimulated my paintings, drawings, and prints for a long time. At this point I see them as part of my overall work, though definitely a part that’s still in development.

A Couple Early 2017 Highlights

This Friday, a show of my collaborative works created with the great Joel T. Dugan goes up in Brooklyn, at es ef eff gallery. Head over to 893 Bergen Street at 7pm this Friday, February 17.


Above: a work from the exhibition, “Crest” – Acrylic, oil, pastel, colored pencil, and graphite with woodblock printing on paper mounted on panel. 11 by 11 inches, 2016-2017.

I’m also pleased to share that the Manifest Gallery painting anthology I was selected for has finally been published. It’s a beautiful volume (buy it here).



Above: one of my personal favorite paintings, beautifully reproduced. The INPA6 book features some amazing work by a lot of great artists, as well as friends and colleagues… like Nathan Sullivan and Melanie Johnson:


Above: detail of a Nathan Sullivan work from the book. Below: Melanie Johnson’s included work.


Pretty cool stuff! I’m thankful! There are a number of additional events happening this year that I will share soon – exciting times!

When a man loves a woman…

…he renovates the main bathroom as a Christmas present while she’s traveling around the world to adopt a daughter. 


New paint, rearranged lighting and towel fixtures, new faucets and drains, and new caulk and sealant on toilet, tub, and sink. New moulding top and bottom, new registers and venting, and a deep clean (wire brush, etc) of everything.

I always try to do a household project for my wife when something huge happens in our lives. Bringing FangFang home is a huge Christmas gift for our family. I wanted to have something special for my wife on her return. Adoption trips are so tough emotionally and physically. It’s nice to have a bright, clean, and cozy space for a shower or bath at home… 


So thankful to my wife and all of the others who have worked to bring this beauty home. 

The Protests at The University of Missouri

As many around the country and around the world are aware, this past week at Mizzou has been harrowing. It was a week that culminated in the ouster of both the MU System President and the Chancellor. On Monday, before the strange, terrifying days that followed, many classes were let out in solidarity with #ConcernedStudent1950 and Jonathan Butler. I told my students that I’d be down on Mel Carnahan Quadrangle to witness the events. I decided that I would undertake a drawing to commemorate the day.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.06.51 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.06.46 PMAbove are two shots of me at work, the first by my colleague and former student Jacob Maurice Crook (Adjunct Professor at Mizzou), the second by one of my graduate students, Jeff Markworth (MFA Candidate, 2016). I was also photographed by local media, and one of those shots can be seen here.

I’ll leave the commentary to other voices. My purpose in all of this is to remain an ally for my students while representing Mizzou well and encouraging the change it needs to see.

Here’s the drawing I made. It’s not as refined as I’d like, nor is it my normal thing to do subject matter like this. But it was a good exercise, and a good day to be present and aware.

November92015“An Historic Day on Carnahan Quad: November 9, 2015.” Pastel on paper, 28 by 44 inches. Click for enlargement.

Two Shows Going Up Soon!

I’m involved with two really great group shows based on the landscape right now. One is at the Deines Cultural Center in Russell, KS and the other is at IMAGO in Columbia, MO. The IMAGO show – Landscape: Idea and Ideal – is the inaugural exhibition for this new downtown gallery space. It’s really beautiful and I’m honored to show with a group of friends and former students Eric Norby, Matt Rahner, Megan Schaffer, and David Spear.

imagoimageA panorama of the Imago interior – it’s a beaut! Click for enlargement.

The group show at the Deines – called Finding Balance – is also about landscape. Curated by Joel T Dugan, the show features 15 artists from around the country and the catalog for the show looks really sweet. Norby and Schaffer are also in this exhibition, as is my good friend and former student Jacob Maurice Crook, who just recently earned his MFA from Syracuse University. Glory all around!

findingbalanceNice to see Norby’s work on the cover of the catalog – Click to download it!

Working It Out

There’s my daughter Miranda doing some complex equations on the chalkboard. She’s working out something profound there.

I’ve been trying to work things out, too. We’ve got a new daughter in China – Madeleine Cai Qun. We just found out yesterday. I’ve been thinking about it, trying to work out how it feels this time – this time being a dad. In some ways – between all the different sorts of work that I do, and trying to be a good dad, and trying to be a good husband – I often don’t know how I feel. My mind is usually full of research, various readings, lesson prep for 4+ classes, a whole range of concerns with my graduate students, community projects, church stuff, family stuff, house maintenance stuff, following up with friends stuff, the logistics of just being-where-I’m-supposed-to-be-when-I’m-supposed-to-be-there, and on and on… Often I don’t know what I feel or if I feel things at the proper proportion because I’m not being reflective enough – not being present enough, really – to have full awareness.

I know this is a season of my life and I know it’ll pass. But when I think about Madeleine and Miranda and Alison, I want to be totally clear.

When I see Cai Qun’s arm raised – little Madeleine Cai Qun Ballou – I’m perfectly clear. Let’s go get her now. I’m ready. I want to be her dad RIGHT NOW.

I guess that’s all I feel: let’s get this flight planned and the paperwork filed and roll. It’s transition time. It’s life-change time. I thank God for my awesome wife who has had the passion, dedication, intelligence, and intensity to follow through and pull this off. This is the sort of adventure we looked forward to a decade ago when we decided to get married. We never knew the specific character of the challenges or what particular form the dreams would take, but we worked it out. Sovereign movements indistinguishable from chance and incomprehensible without faith.

Inspiration – Norleen Nosri

Norleen Nosri is a talented ceramist from Malaysia who is earning her MFA here at the University of Missouri. I’m privileged to work with her and to own several of her beautiful pieces. Her work is, to me, almost above comment. The compositions she creates are gentle and evocative. She says they are an attempt to “elicit harmony in duality.”

Above: Two images I took when I met with Norleen in her studio this past week. These groups of objects were there awaiting their placement in larger compositional arrangements and I was struck by the incidental beauty of their color, interrelated shapes, and intimate space. There was an amazing northern light coming in through a bank of windows; it produced a wonderful glow on the exquisite surfaces of Norleen’s porcelain vessels…

Here are two cups my wife and I have that were made by Norleen.

This last image is an example of Norleen’s awesome maker’s mark. The Nosri name is of tremendous importance to her, and is a connection to her family, her country, her heritage, and the meaning she understands of life. Having discussed this name with her many times, I always make it a point – whenever I hold one of her creations – to turn it over and look upon this honorable name.

Both Sides of the Brain

Mr. Aaron Coleman, mezzotinter extraordinaire, has been coordinating this traveling exhibition for quite some time. And now the first shows are coming soon.

Cover for the folio cases: GLORY! Photo by Aaron Coleman.

And here’s a listing of the locations for this traveling show – click the highlights for more info about the specific exhibitions:

2012

August 13 – September 18, 2012 ~ Basile Gallery, Herron School of Art. Indianapolis, Indiana

October 3 – October 28, 2012 – Washington Printmakers Gallery. Silver Spring, Maryland

TBA – Gallery 215. Northern Illinois University School of Art. Dekalb, Illinois (link when available)

2013

May 20 – August 29, 2013 – George Caleb Bingham Gallery. University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri (link when available)

TBA – Lamar D. Fain School of Art. Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas (link when available)

The edition is in the permanent collections of Herron School of Art and Northern Illinois University School of Art. BOO-YEAH!

Current Shows and News

It’s been a full summer so far… plenty to be excited about in spite of the 107 degree heat!

I’ve currently got work up at PS Gallery in Columbia, MO. It’s a solo show – titled Adding – in their secondary gallery space, the Hallery. It’ll be up through July 28th. The Reception for the exhibition takes place July 14th at 6:00pm and we’ll be around for that. Also, stop by on Artrageous Friday, July 20th. Artageous Fridays are always epic cultural events in Columbia. Below are a few images from the installation.

Already making sales!

I have a piece of work at First Street Gallery in NYC until July 14th. First Street is a quality stop if you’re out there!

I am in a show (exhibiting a collaboration with Marcus Miers) at the 930 Art Center that runs through August 12th, called Phoneography. Check it out if you’re in Louisville!

I’ve got a work – already sold! – up at the Columbia Art League Annual Member’s Summer Open Exhibition. It garnered a 2nd place ribbon even…

I was the juror for Figure It Out! at the Craft Studio Gallery on the campus of the University of Missouri which was up from June 14 through June 28. I was delighted to select some amazing work and have a piece of my own there as well. See some shots below.

A detail of Catherine Armbrust’s amazing “The Titillator”

Ryan Johnson’s Crisis (on the pedestal) and Morgan Hobbs’ Self Portrait – which won an Honorable Mention.

Detail of John Schneider’s Do These Stripes Make Me Look Fat? – Oil on panel.

Detail of Jane Jun’s Journey.

My own monotype print titled Extend on the back wall, and a front view of Armbrust’s The Titillator.

Detail of David Mazure‘s Habakkuk, a luminous ink and marker on translucent paper that won Best in Show.

Wow… quite a bit going on since the spring semester ended. I’m trying to get my studio really set up and am enjoying time with my wife and daughter. I’m teaching a summer session of painting at Mizzou, which is quite a lot of fun, and working on a few odds and ends here and there in our new place. I made some hanging polyhedral sculptures for the front porch, a first for me. But perhaps the most effervescent developments of the last few days are my first brews – both IPAs – a Chinook and a Double. I’m using Northern Brewer equipment.

Beer Room…

ACTIVE FERMENTATION!