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Nielsen Gallery

Post #945 • January 25, 2007, 9:26 AM • 17 Comments

My last trip to Newbury Street proved productive. In addition to the Anthony Falcetta work up at Judi Rotenberg, Nielsen Gallery down the street had some intriguing paintings by Jane Smaldone, who turns out to live in my neighborhood here in Boston, and Sachiko Akiyama, another local. Awkward, but awkward to their credit, Smaldone's portraits and still lifes convey a Balthusian weirdness, incorporating Asian motifs with charming artificiality. Even with mostly straightforward subject matter, a surrealist frisson hangs in their atmosphere. This is especially the case in the still lifes, in which the perspective strains a little and the flowers, looming in front of backgrounds inspired by Chinese landscape paintings, turn to face the viewer like the eyes of aliens. Akiyama's figure sculptures and portrait heads, many depicting her actual or implied self in painted wood, show dignity and command. While obviously contemporary, they evoke Egyptian memorial statuary in their positioning, expressing modest, timeless seriousness. Handsomely neutral colors, thinly applied, reinforce their introspective mood.

By the way, this may be one of the best gallery websites I've ever seen: clean, functional, dense with information, and no dancing baloney.

Comment

1.

opie

January 25, 2007, 12:12 PM

I'd say that "charming artificiality" is more like cantpaintitis. More wan, bloodless figuration we don't need, fer sure.

The web site is very basic and clear, as you say. But now that you have introduced the concept of dancing baloney some one will certainly make an exhibit of just that.

2.

Lux Iconic

January 25, 2007, 12:42 PM

"Cantpaintitis": I love the coinage, a very common modern art affliction that affects numerous luminaries--Elizabeth Peyton, Alex Katz, Luc Tuymans, etc etc.

3.

opie

January 25, 2007, 1:33 PM

It's pretty common, Lux. Spreads rapidly. Some kind of virus, I think. It takes years to get over it but a lot of people never do. Too much work.

4.

Franklin

January 25, 2007, 2:59 PM

Now that you've used my own "wan figuration" term back at me, I'm seeing them differently. They held together more in person. I still like the still lifes. "Cantpaintitis" is brilliant. I can't take credit for "dancing baloney," already a well-established web design term.

5.

opie

January 25, 2007, 3:51 PM

Yes, I have always liked "wan figuration". Puts it very succinctly. Dancing baloney is expressive too. It is just what so many "art" sites suffer from. And it is even more fun when there is something you really want to see and you don't even have the right dancing baloney plugin to get into the damn page

6.

Marc Country

January 25, 2007, 6:45 PM

When you mentioned 'dancing baloney', this was what came to mind...

7.

jm

January 25, 2007, 8:05 PM

Perhapes "wan figuration" is the use of a figurative form as a symbol, a metaphor, or a kind of stand-in human effigy to create or convey a mood. Summarian Votive figures come to mind. Can anyone point to a photo-based figurative painting that is not "bloodless"?

8.

Bob

January 26, 2007, 8:06 AM

jm: eric fischl, joan semmel, al leslie come to mind. i'm sure there are plenty others.

9.

opie

January 26, 2007, 9:00 AM

On the other hand there is Gerhard Richter, whose work is about as "bloodless" as anything can get.

10.

jm

January 26, 2007, 9:02 AM

Thanks Bob, however, the works jump out and say hello, I am based on a photographic source even before they convey physicality and thus reality. Yes I know, the photo is another kind of reality and most contemporary painting embodies it's image sources and conveys it foremost as non "bloodless" figuration to the mass audience. Chuck Close should be a photographer, as should Fischl, Semmel, Leslie, Richter, etc. Yet they copy well and maybe conceptually this is fine. I think that "wan figuration" deals with a sort of contemporary attitude or mood regarding a style within the artist that reflects what they have to say. They want to convey some sort of contemporary "slacker" attitude in the guise of spiritualism and current consumerist society. Does this make them less beautiful is another question, as is "can my kid do that."

11.

beWare

January 26, 2007, 9:04 AM

weak kneed figuration=wan figuration

I prefer this: www.artchive.com/artchive/c/courbet/courbet_apples.jpg

Robust and full of strength.

12.

Bob

January 26, 2007, 9:16 AM

jm: Fischl, Semmel, Borremans all use photos to work from. With paint they reinvigorate, breathe life into their initial photo source. They're not photographers, and I would group them together with Close or Richter; it's a different approach all together, one bound to the photo source.

"Wan figuration" probably has more to do with fanastical realism or Clemente's ever-reaching influence. I don't think the lot of contemporary figurative painters intend to convey a "slacker" attitude - slackers rarely have the drive to do anything. What is conveyed is the lack of ability plain and simple.

13.

Bob

January 26, 2007, 9:41 AM

crap --above should say "would not" group together.

14.

opie

January 26, 2007, 12:19 PM

Bob & jm disagree somewhat, and I might disagree (somewhat) with each of them, but both are looking and thinking pretty well. Let's see more of this.

15.

ahab

January 27, 2007, 11:26 PM

It looks like Smaldone has only painted the makeup that covers the models' faces - there's no real person underneath even though I can discern an attempt at portraiture. They're all very thin and unstable masks. I kept trying to find a Smaldone that I could affirm, and finally settled uncomfortably on one of the arranged flower pics. I think Orange Alert is the only one of the bunch [sic pun] I can say I kinda like, and that inspite of the wan winged insect blossoming on a stem.

The Akiyama sculptures are just as hard for me to appreciate. They come off as blandly stylized, their hand-touched surfaces notwithstanding. But I think the head of Neil is alright - probably just because it looks something like me sans almondized eyes.

16.

Jack

January 28, 2007, 8:49 AM

The wood sculptures are clearly derived from those of a German artist who's been at Basel several times. The main difference is the ethnicity of the subjects. It's wan figuration in 3-D, more or less.

17.

Jack

January 28, 2007, 8:52 AM

I was referring to Stephan Balkenhol.

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