Some meaningful statements on painting are being made in Boston this fall.
At the Institute of Contemporary Art is Expanding the Field of Painting, highlighting works from the ICA collection that challenge the orthodoxy of traditional materials, subjects, and techniques of the genre. While challenging the orthodoxy of painting’s, well, everything has been going on for generations, the selections here have spark and sex appeal—there is an especially thrilling corner of the show that faces off a typically pneumatic and glowing Lisa Yuskavage with a full length nude portrait of a very pregnant young woman by Alice Neel. The iconic Marilyn Minter Green Pink Caviar video plays in the middle. The Minter video’s swirling tongues and puffy lips look like sea creatures as they rudely cavort across a candy-smeared surface in slow motion. It is not usual to be presented with so much raw female sexual imagery that somehow maintains the figure’s subjectivity. Expanding the Field of Painting closes October 2014.
Also at the ICA is the first museum retrospective of the outspoken and influential painter Amy Sillman. It is she we have to thank in part for the current trend in juicy abstraction that flirts with figuration. But she should be revered for the way she has rigorously searched for and found forms and painting processes that can convey the paradox of being a thinking, feeling, sexual being that lives in and through a gendered body. She is one of the most authentically existential painters working right now. In the last gallery, on a small screen, is Sillman’s animation of a Lisa Robertson poem. To create the animation, Sillman made over two thousand ‘paintings’ on her i-pad. They seamlessly morph into one another as she narrates Robertson’s poem as a voice over. While surrounded in the gallery by some of Sillman’s largest, most tour-de-force paintings, this collaboration of voice and moving image just might be the key work to understanding Sillman’s concerns. While the retrospective is worth a trip to Boston (I recommend a meal at Sam’s afterword), the six minute video can also be found below. Amy Sillman: one lump or two is up till January 5th, 2014.
Leidy Churchman’s show, Lazy River, just opened at the Boston University Art Gallery. His enigmatic works point to paintings future where the traditional relationships between object and subject have been divorced. Churchman often paints figuratively, and the show is predominantly filled with small, thinly painted and yet vibrant works, whose names belie their subject: Rat, Lemon, Pizza Box, Devil. The straightforwardness of these works, their charm and feeling, leaves one straining to connect them in a narrative or other type of structure. While Churchman denies this pleasure, he may be remarking that as our relationship to imagery loses its scaffolding in this contemporary age, what remains is no less heartbreaking, and perhaps much more playful. Don’t step on the giant floor painting. It is called Pool.
Lazy River is open until October 20th, 2013.
By Emily Auchincloss