Monday, June 27, 2011

B. Wurtz, 1970-2011 – Metro Pictures: Mark Grotjan, Nine Faces – Anton Kern

B. Wurtz, 1970-2011

When being introduced to the man that is B. Wurtz prior to his art, there are certain things that are made clear. One, he is eccentric but sweet. Two, he exists in his own sense of time and space. Three, he is warm, goofy and a bit scattered. Then you see his works, which can currently be seen at Metro Pictures. The works span 40 years, mostly from the artists’ holdings, and they are levels of whimsy, consistent practice and developed aesthetics in composition. There is a collection of varieties in his works. They are pieces of wood balanced in arrangements that are reminiscent of tiny Calders but have more good humor and less welding. There is the unpretentious use of the everyday like buttons, plastic bags, lids of hummus, shoelaces. They look like miniature gardens, monuments, movie posters for a civilization made up of nice arty people who get Beuys but are too busy having a good time to want to write about him. Wurtz has three points of focus in the construction of his works; “sleeping, eating, keeping warm.” This three-point manifesto is beyond fitting and is done to a sensitive T. Who is this B. Wurtz? Why doesn’t everyone know about him and his work? This is the frustration and also the exciting part of this art thing. You can discover an artist that will change the way things will be considered from that point on even though he has been beloved by so many before. See this show before it closes, see any shows he may have in the future at his representing gallery Feature. It’s a win win for all.

Mark Grotjan, Nine Faces

The critics are in L.O.V.E with Mark Grotjan’s exhibition, Nine Faces, that is soon to close at Anton Kern Gallery. The need to know what is in the know requires a personal visit to these large paintings. Yes, they are faces. Does that matter? Not too much. They are thick, they are smelly, they are tribal but very controlled. The paint is in layered streaks, they are very large finger paintings made by hallucinating giants. Then you step back and seeing them at a distance reveals their subtly, they become less about surface and more about the complexity of the composition. This is impressive in that there is such a sense of chaos in these works. There is an inability to go back, to erase, to change ones mind when a stroke, aggressive or lyric is made. Another subtle evidence of control is in the balance of color. Every color known to oil paint seems to be used but these paintings are not about color, they are not over informed by any shade or any juxtapositions. The colors are just another element that is controlled in this prehistoric-trippy-chasmos. The illusions of a face, an eye, nose, dragon snout are slightly unnecessary but as Grotjan did with his butterfly series, this seems to be a needed point of formal focus. Sometimes the requirements for limitations or goal are the only things that can reign in the uncalculated messiness that is in brilliant skill. If Grotjan walked in the gallery and the scale of his person to the scale and density of his paintings were made stark, there would be a gasp of disbelief. How could a mere man and not some twenty-foot shaman-stoner make these works? Yes, these works are impressive, they are very skilled and are good evidence that a different sort of abstraction in painting is being produced that is somehow “new” but lets relax on the coronations for at least a bit. Doing this too much, too fast and with too much zeal is too much for any artist, brilliant, genius, lucky or otherwise. We should all just let Grotjan continue what he has always been doing. Paint, paint and paint more.