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Artforum review of John Pomara exhibition, 1991 (author's cut)

john_pomara_96_tears_650w

John Pomara, 96 Tears
oil and enamel on canvas
72 x 124 inches
photo: Harrison Evans
larger view

Below is a corrected "author's cut" of a review that originally appeared in Artforum, in December 1991. A post noting the changes was put up previously.

Dallas Reviews, December 1991
John Pomara
EUGENE BINDER GALLERY

In John Pomara’s paintings from the first half of the ’80s, turbulent color fields surrounded silhouetted black abstract forms, evoking robots and spaceships. The science fictional elements combined with graffiti and neo-Expressionist iconography to comment obliquely on the failed aspirations of both mid-century science (Sputnik gone awry) and the artistic would-be heroism of the Abstract Expressionists. The painterly brio of Pomara’s brushwork competed with the dopey, out-of-kilter robotic forms, suggesting a paradox -- the investment of substantial physical energy in the depiction of entropy and collapse.

As the art of the ’80s cooled down, so did Pomara’s, but without abandoning its basic themes or its commitment to paint. The entropic forms remained, but the full-spectrum color and diagrammatic scribblings of the surrounding fields gave way to starker, more subtle painterly effects. As if to compensate for the change, Pomara began to place second panels -- typically fields of dots or organic blobs -- adjacent to the figure-ground studies. On the whole, the added panels suggest a more upbeat approach to art and science than their companions do. Here an interest in investigating patterns of chaos joins Pomara’s characteristic skepticism and taste for paradox.

The new diptychs create dialogues (never simplistic dichotomies) between high and low, macro and micro, esthetic and antiesthetic. The vertical line separating each pair of panels becomes a permeable membrane allowing ideas, motifs, and colors to pass between the rectangles, unifying the paintings and subverting the usual cliches of the diptych format. Assonant and dissonant approaches to the double image appear, respectively, in two large works: Untitled #5 -- Orange, 1991, and 96 Tears, 1990. In the former, aluminum radiator paint is streaked laterally across both panels in a manner recalling photocopies or Andy Warhol’s silk screens. In the left-hand panel, horizontal bands of orange blur the outlines of a skewed, malevolent “spaceship.” In the right-hand panel, dots of orange and black are scattered across a silvery void. The two panels suggest oppositions (portrait and landscape, low culture and high, the ridiculous and the sublime), yet each incorporates formal and thematic elements of the other.

96 Tears presents a more straightforward dichotomy. The aluminum paint on the left side creates a complex, rather nasty surface of welts, drips, and over-painted “mistakes,” the perfect ground for the mutated machine forms. The leopard-skin pattern of black blobs over incandescent yellow in the right-hand panel dazzles and seduces; in fact, one almost wishes to see it isolated. A fine spray of yellow and black dots on the left side maintains an uneasy unity between the canvases.

In some ways, the paintings resemble embryonic cells on the verge of mitosis: one imagines that they could easily split into equally viable bodies of work. That we accept them in this poised state comments on our own divided loyalties: between the need for complexity and a desire for reassuring unities; between our demand for heroism and purity and our doubts that these ideals are attainable.

—Tom Moody

- tom moody

January 31st, 2018 at 4:01 pm

from the vault: my Artforum review of John Pomara, 1991

pomara1 pomara2

PUBLISHED REVIEW
This was my second Artforum review. As with the Linda Ridgway review, I didn't receive the customary writer-editor phone call so the review went to press with some confusing mistakes. In the "author's cut" version at the bottom of this post, I've attempted to fix the damage. It was partly my fault for writing a cute lead sentence about the new work followed by immediate backtracking to discuss older work; this clearly confused the editor. The solution was to eliminate the lead and start at the beginning of the work's chronology.

Dallas Reviews, December 1991
John Pomara
EUGENE BINDER GALLERY

John Pomara’s recent work may reflect a split personality, but it’s ours as much as his. In paintings from the first half of the ’80s, turbulent color fields surround silhouetted black abstract forms, evoking robots and spaceships. The science fictional elements combine with graffiti and neo-Expressionism to comment obliquely on the failed aspirations of both mid-century science (Sputnik gone awry) and the painterly heroism of the Abstract Expressionists. The painterly brio of Pomara’s work compete with the dopey, out-of-kilter robotic forms, suggesting a paradox—the investment of substantial physical energy—in the depiction of entropy and collapse.

As the art of the ’80s cooled down, so did Pomara’s, but without abandoning its basic themes or its commitment to paint. The entropic forms remained, but the full-spectrum color and diagrammatic scribblings of the surrounding fields gave way to starker, more subtle painterly effects. As if to compensate for the change, Pomara began to place second panels—typically fields of dots or organic blobs—adjacent to the figure-ground studies. On the whole, the added panels suggest a more upbeat approach to art and science than their companions do. Here an interest in investigating patterns of chaos contrasted with Pomara’s characteristic skepticism and taste for paradox.

The new diptychs create dialogues (never simplistic dichotomies) between high and low, macro and micro, esthetic and antiesthetic. The vertical line separating each pair of panels becomes a permeable membrane allowing ideas, motifs, and colors to pass between the rectangles, unifying the paintings and subverting the usual cliches of the diptych format. Assonant and dissonant approaches to the double image appear, respectively, in two large works: Untitled #5—Orange, 1991, and 96 Tears, 1990. In the former, aluminum radiator paint is streaked laterally across both panels in a manner recalling photocopies or Andy Warhol’s silk screens. In the left-hand panel, horizontal bands of orange blur the outlines of a skewed, malevolent “spaceship.” In the right-hand panel, dots of orange and black are scattered across a silvery void. The two panels suggest oppositions (portrait and landscape, low culture and high, the ridiculous and the sublime), yet each incorporates formal and thematic elements of the other.

96 Tears presents a more straightforward dichotomy. The aluminum paint on the left side creates a complex, rather nasty surface of welts, drips, and over-painted “mistakes,” the perfect ground for the mutated machine forms. The leopard-skin pattern of black blobs over incandescent yellow in the right-hand panel dazzles and seduces; indeed, one almost wishes to see it isolated. A fine spray of yellow and black dots on the left side maintains an uneasy unity between the canvases.

In some ways, the paintings resemble embryonic cells on the verge of mitosis: one imagines that they could easily split into equally viable works. That we accept them in this poised state comments on our own divided loyalties, between the need for complexity and a desire for reassuring unities—between our demand for heroism and purity and our doubts that these ideals are attainable.

—Tom Moody

AUTHOR'S CUT

Dallas Reviews, December 1991
John Pomara
EUGENE BINDER GALLERY

In John Pomara’s paintings from the first half of the ’80s, turbulent color fields surrounded silhouetted black abstract forms, evoking robots and spaceships. The science fictional elements combined with graffiti and neo-Expressionist iconography to comment obliquely on the failed aspirations of both mid-century science (Sputnik gone awry) and the artistic would-be heroism of the Abstract Expressionists. The painterly brio of Pomara’s brushwork competed with the dopey, out-of-kilter robotic forms, suggesting a paradox -- the investment of substantial physical energy in the depiction of entropy and collapse.

As the art of the ’80s cooled down, so did Pomara’s, but without abandoning its basic themes or its commitment to paint. The entropic forms remained, but the full-spectrum color and diagrammatic scribblings of the surrounding fields gave way to starker, more subtle painterly effects. As if to compensate for the change, Pomara began to place second panels -- typically fields of dots or organic blobs -- adjacent to the figure-ground studies. On the whole, the added panels suggest a more upbeat approach to art and science than their companions do. Here an interest in investigating patterns of chaos joins Pomara’s characteristic skepticism and taste for paradox.

The new diptychs create dialogues (never simplistic dichotomies) between high and low, macro and micro, esthetic and antiesthetic. The vertical line separating each pair of panels becomes a permeable membrane allowing ideas, motifs, and colors to pass between the rectangles, unifying the paintings and subverting the usual cliches of the diptych format. Assonant and dissonant approaches to the double image appear, respectively, in two large works: Untitled #5 -- Orange, 1991, and 96 Tears, 1990. In the former, aluminum radiator paint is streaked laterally across both panels in a manner recalling photocopies or Andy Warhol’s silk screens. In the left-hand panel, horizontal bands of orange blur the outlines of a skewed, malevolent “spaceship.” In the right-hand panel, dots of orange and black are scattered across a silvery void. The two panels suggest oppositions (portrait and landscape, low culture and high, the ridiculous and the sublime), yet each incorporates formal and thematic elements of the other.

96 Tears presents a more straightforward dichotomy. The aluminum paint on the left side creates a complex, rather nasty surface of welts, drips, and over-painted “mistakes,” the perfect ground for the mutated machine forms. The leopard-skin pattern of black blobs over incandescent yellow in the right-hand panel dazzles and seduces; in fact, one almost wishes to see it isolated. A fine spray of yellow and black dots on the left side maintains an uneasy unity between the canvases.

In some ways, the paintings resemble embryonic cells on the verge of mitosis: one imagines that they could easily split into equally viable bodies of work. That we accept them in this poised state comments on our own divided loyalties: between the need for complexity and a desire for reassuring unities; between our demand for heroism and purity and our doubts that these ideals are attainable.

—Tom Moody

- tom moody

January 31st, 2018 at 2:18 pm

notes for my Linda Ridgway review

Below is a corrected "author's cut" of a review that originally appeared in Artforum, in October 1991. A post noting the changes was put up previously.
Following the review are scans of my gallery notes. After going to so much trouble to note the pieces and their locations, it was discouraging to have several works mis-described in the published review. One of the hazards of art-writing is an editor who didn't see a show changes the meaning of work in an attempt to make the writing flow better. As I noted earlier, this is usually resolved in a pre-publication discussion with the editor and writer. Artforum was always good about that, from my third review to the end (1992-1999), but the first two reviews "fell through the cracks." Belated apologies to the artists (again).

Dallas Reviews, Artforum, October 1991
Linda Ridgway
GERALD PETERS GALLERY

Linda Ridgway isn’t generally thought of as an installation artist, but this exhibit of three-dimensional objects worked so well as a unit that one almost hated to think of its component parts removed from each other’s company. Though Ridgway’s abstractions function as autonomous works, here she positioned them to heighten their theatrical interaction: they sat resolutely on the floor, hung purposefully from walls, or dropped delicately from the ceiling. Indeed, her materials—bronze, wood, hemp, wax, cement, and hydrastone (finished with a broad spectrum of surface treatments and patinas)—were distributed throughout the gallery with a feeling of proportion verging on the mathematical. The result could be compared to an Oriental garden dotted with shapes and textures. In many of the works, the yin of serene orientalism plays off the yang of a certain Western lack of couth. In Well Pull and Bishop’s Poem, both 1990, pristine forms hang from the wall in slings of dung-textured bronze. In Waking, 1990, fibrous “hairs” protrude from smooth layers of cement and wax. In Well Point, 1991, a bronze talon points suggestively toward a punctured disk jutting from the wall. In all of these, the rough and the stately were dramatically wed.

Ridgway commands, but never flaunts, an impressive range of techniques; in fact, her handling of difficult substances and processes is so understated that viewers might almost have missed the fact that this show consisted of one virtuoso technical feat after another. Under her control, bronze becomes malleable, a material to be spun into spidery filaments or compacted into dense clumps; so transformed, it seems light-years distant from the stench and sweat of the foundry. In Plowman, 1990, a multi-part work, the metal takes on strikingly different aspects: a battered pot, a tightly coiled mat, or an elegant line drawing in space.

Though I referred to Ridgway’s works as abstractions, the designation is not entirely fair; perhaps “abstract-plus” would be more accurate. Some of her pieces recall tools but, like archaeological artifacts in various stages of restoration, their original function is lost to us. Other objects, such as Hullman’s Three, 1990, with its tapering, fingerlike pods of rough bronze, might be vegetables that have managed to evade the watchful eye of the taxonomist. Still others evoke comparisons to immediately recognizable phenomena, as in Power of Ra (Domain), 1990-91, where a verdigris-tinted bronze cone suggests the action of a volcano, with its peak collapsing into a crater and a rivulet of bronze lava trickling down its slope. Nevertheless, in every case, shorthand descriptions of the works -- leaf, bracelet, basket, bullet, plumb bob -- seem inadequate as soon as they are uttered. Ridgway’s objects are signifiers sans signifieds, steadfastly deflecting attempts to label them while consistently inviting us to try. —Tom Moody

ridgwaynotes1thum ridgwaynotes2thum
ridgwaynotes3thum ridgwaynotes4thum
ridgwaynotes5thum ridgwaynotes6thum
ridgwaynotes7thum ridgwaynotes8thum
ridgwaynotes9thum

(scans of drawings, ink on newsprint, 1991)

- tom moody

January 31st, 2018 at 10:03 am

Linda Ridgway, Well Pull, 1990

linda_ridgway_well_pull_photo

Bronze, 39 x 12 x 5 1/2 inches

...from the show that was the subject of my first Artforum review in 1991

The dimensions above are from the gallery checklist. The dimensions in the Artforum photo caption are the same ones on the back of this press photo. My memory of the piece is that it jutted out from the wall 5 1/2 inches at the bottom, not 12 inches.

- tom moody

January 30th, 2018 at 8:09 pm

bob and predator

bobrosspredator

Image via "roxannejackson_" on Instagram

- tom moody

January 18th, 2018 at 5:20 pm

Posted in art - others

Kara Hammond drawing + Discogs dedication

muscular-yet-congenial-domestic-shorthair

Artwork by Kara Hammond, from her blog.

I would like to dedicate this to the selfless, hard-working Discogs volunteers, who, no matter how wrong they are nor how shallow their reading of the Discogs rules, work night and day to keep the Discogs database free from corruption by removing the contributions of casual users who have not accrued vote power.

See also: hall proctors

- tom moody

January 17th, 2018 at 10:57 am

primordial bliss in the sexy Stone Age

primordial_bliss

This painting had to be commented on. You've got the bearded hunk out walking his wolf, carrying his Thor hammer; the babe posing with her scythe while taking a break from the harvest; feral teenager tanning his back as the wind caresses his blowdried locks; a suspiciously American landscape considering these neolithic farmers are all Caucasian and resemble pinup models from the 1950s (with 1970s hair), at a time when "America" was populated by natives that came across the Bering land bridge. The painting screams anachronism from every pixel. Enjoy, out of context. [via]

- tom moody

January 9th, 2018 at 8:21 am

Posted in art - others

erasing the clouds (and the collective)

Patrick LeMieux offers a rather snide takedown [Vimeo] of Super Mario Clouds, a work he attributes to the artist Cory Arcangel (it was originally exhibited as Cory Arcangel/BEIGE -- more on that below). He re-examines the code and concludes that... drum roll... the work doesn't actually "erase everything but the clouds" on the Mario cartridge. I posted a comment on the Vimeo page:

Patrick, you treat this like a detective story where you discovered a master criminal with clues hiding in plain sight. I was writing about the BEIGE Programming Ensemble on my blog back in 2002-5 and attended their shows and Arcangel's talks and it was pretty clear that "erasing everything but the clouds" was a figure of speech to explain the piece to an un-technical audience (which included curators unsure of this computer art stuff).

In focusing so single-mindedly on Super Mario Clouds, you are ignoring that it was part of a body of work, produced by Arcangel individually and as part of an artistic "collective" (BEIGE). The cartridge works all involved reprogramming the games to some extent. Thus, "Landscape Study" added photographic elements (rooftops) into the Mario scrolling and "Mario Clouds" treated the clouds themselves as discrete icons that could be "put back into the game" without all the other Mario elements.

It's easier to explain this as "erasure" but you are focusing on this aspect single-mindedly as evidence of some kind of fraud. It's not entirely your fault, in that Arcangel and Team Gallery have "erased" the BEIGE origins of the work from Arcangel's bio, but I wish you had done more research before going on the attack like this.

[edited after posting to clarify description of "Landscape Study"]

Most of my BEIGE writing is still up at digitalmediatree.com/tommoody. Of particular interest is (BEIGE member) Paul B. Davis's 2006 video where he talks about "Super Abstract" -- concocted by BEIGE before "Clouds" -- which employs related techniques of chip removal and replacement,* yet didn't become a zeitgeist/canonical work, worthy of attack 15 years later.

As for why Super Mario Clouds became a monster artwork, here are some reasons:

--Team Gallery did an excellent job of presenting it in Arcangel/BEIGE's 2003 show. Those blue rectangles were aesthetically pleasing and the placement of the screens and monitors was both striking and "street." By contrast Team corraled all the other BEIGE product (bead works, dot matrix printouts, etc) into a tiny room off the main gallery, where it could be easily overlooked.

--Those blue rectangles tie into the color field painting history -- Barnett Newman, Brice Marden, etc -- that curators love. Plus Duchampian and Warholian appropriation and other precedents they can flatter themselves for recognizing.

--The time was ripe for "computer art that didn't suck" after notable failures at the Whitney such as the "BitStreams" show.

--There was interest in "collectives" (PaperRad, Dearraindrop, etc) which died right after the 2004 Biennial.

--Arcangel was giving amusing lectures and performances at the time in NYC and had built a certain momentum for his career (with and without BEIGE). Clouds's inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, followed by the Deitch show with Paper Rad, was the culmination of sustained effort on Arcangel's part. After that BEIGE dissolved and gradually dropped off his resume. (And Arcangel's own work got worse, but that's another blog post.)

*From what I've been able to reconstruct, some cartridges involved changes to the graphics ROM (chip) and others involved changes to the program ROM (chip). BEIGE's practice was pretty fluid and many different ways of "hacking" the Nintendo cartridges were explored. Some of the code from "Super Mario Clouds" appears in at least one other work ("Landscape Study") but Patrick LeMieux didn't consider all the BEIGE cartridges taken together for similarities/differences, he just focused on one for his "gotcha" moment.

- tom moody

January 6th, 2018 at 8:48 am

Posted in art - others

pre-post-internet detail panels via twitter and @FailureAWLife

Thanks to Joe Milutis aka @FailureAWLife for the props re: "Pre-Post-Internet" and exhibition details he posted on Twitter. I like the way Twitter arranges the pics into comic book-like panels: very "pre-post-internet."

milutis_twitter_prepostinternet

- tom moody

December 31st, 2017 at 7:52 am

Posted in art - others, art - tm

press release questions (Mark Sheinkman exhibit)

A press release from Von Lintel Gallery (LA, formerly New York) announces a new Mark Sheinkman show. Sheinkman makes swirly black and white marks with a 3D spatial illusion. The release begs for some interrogation, so here goes:

Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by New York artist Mark Sheinkman; the artist’s eleventh solo show with the gallery spanning a twenty plus year history.

Sheinkman has expanded the role of additive mark-making in his latest paintings which no longer include graphite.

Shouldn't removing one of the materials make the work subtractive, rather than additive? Also, why mention this at the outset? Was the graphite causing the canvases to be more archivally fragile -- shedding off the surfaces, staining collectors' floors? It reads like a product blurb ("now graphite-free!")

The direct application of oil and alkyd paint and a more clearly evident brushwork has resulted in gestures with a wider range of characteristics.

So, removing the graphite from canvases previously made with "oil, alkyd and graphite" was not due to archival considerations but to widen the characteristics of the brushwork and make the markings "more clearly evident." How -- or why -- was the graphite retarding the paint application, so that it was dropped as a material after 20 years of use? Inquiring minds want to know.

In many of these paintings, he has so entirely entangled the marks that the layering is ambiguous. This complicates the implied depth and introduces a snap of tension between spatial illusion and the painted surface, opening up a range of potential for formal exploration and art historical associations.

Sheinkman’s process is flexible and fluid, and allows him considerable leeway to react and change course, Sheinkman says, “the process is what’s engaging because you’re paying attention all the time. Restrictions open up all kinds of possibilities.”

If the process is flexible and fluid, how is this a "restriction"? Possibly the restriction refers to the removal of graphite from the painter's arsenal. One could still wonder how this makes for a more open-ended process. The artist's page at Von Lintel hasn't been modified yet and mentions the graphite aspect: "Sheinkman builds up his canvases and drawings in layers, working into graphite to create a visual effect of curvilinear forms moving through space." So the graphite was part of the ground, and somehow important in the creation of the 3D illusion. Yet the paintings with no graphite also have these depth illusions. Something in the material held the artist back -- was it more abrasive? Absorbing? By removing it, he can now make qualitatively better 3D illusions. Good to know, if still somewhat obscure.

- tom moody

December 17th, 2017 at 9:14 am

Posted in art - others