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Christine Nguyen at Michael Kohn

Post #1143 • March 18, 2008, 9:20 AM • 42 Comments

Los Angeles - Christine Nguyen draws in opaque media on acetate and exposes photographic paper under the drawings, producing a melange of spacey and undersea references via an automatic-surrealist technique. By crossing Odilon Redon, Joan Miro, and Jacques Cousteau, with a few glow sticks thrown in for contemporaniety, she produces enticing, quasi-scientific images with lovely nacreous passages. In aggregate, though, they lose effectiveness, and they aggregate in a hurry because she has presented them at Kohn Gallery on matrices of Sintra arranged upwards to fourteen feet wide. I believe that the artist is trying to load too much onto the style, which has a high desnisty of eye candy - and I like eye candy - but it skirts too close to Tesla coils and microphotography to transcend such references. The back office at Kohn has four John McLaughlins up, and returning into the main space after taking in their hale simplicity further made Nguyen's special effects seem effortful.

Comment

1.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 8:59 AM

Based on the jpegs at least, your comments seem dead-on. Too much of an 'interesting' technique. It probably would have had more of an impact in smaller doses. Nice imagery though. A nice real/unreal vibe going on.

2.

Jack

March 18, 2008, 10:06 AM

Uh, no. This is what could come of too much exposure to lava lamps. As gimmicks go, this is a bit too obvious. You need to upgrade your eye candy standards, Franklin (at least to Eliot Spitzer levels).

3.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 10:52 AM

Who are you favorite abstractionists Jack?

4.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 11:10 AM

Sorry about the sloppy typing. What abstract painters do you like Jack?

5.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 11:46 AM

I definitely think it is true that too many young painters get enamored of a technique they discovered or think they discovered and forget about the primacy of the image. Since many galleries are more than happy to give solo exhibitions to painters who have a catchy or inovative technique but little else to offer, painters are encouraged to experiment with technique, come up with a new combination of materials, use materials that haven't been used in the painting process before, and do little else besides.

Jack I asked about your taste in abstract painting, if you have one, because you have very concise and unwavering opinions, and I would like to know what you like.

6.

opie

March 18, 2008, 12:30 PM

Chilly techie stuff. Dull as art but very ambitious and I would guess will be successful.

7.

Jack

March 18, 2008, 2:42 PM

Eric, I don't like to commit myself to painters so much as to individual works, which should be evaluated individually on their own specific merits (or lack thereof) regardless of who made them.

To give you an example, I love early Kandinsky (before he lost his "mojo," as Jerry Saltz would say), but have little use for the prissy, brittle stuff he did later. It's not the autograph, or the brand, that matters, it's the piece itself.

I can't relate to people who literally idolize artist X as infallible. That's not the way it is in reality. Every artist has greater and lesser work, and in some cases the quality varies dramatically. That has to be recognized, and I do, as rigorously as I can.

8.

Chris Rywalt

March 18, 2008, 3:13 PM

Mojo! Mojo! Mojo!

9.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 5:15 PM

A perfectly sensible philosophy and I couldn't agree with it more. Late Kandinsky is arid and humorless. It is telling that his late geomtric bric-a-brac grid paintings lose nothing when reproduced as glossy posters. One has to wonder what the hell he was thinking. The early Improvs were brilliant.

10.

Eric

March 18, 2008, 5:35 PM

I couldn't agree more with your take on things Jack. Sorry I can't stir up some shit by disagreeing. One wonders what the hell was going through Kandinsky's mind during his late phase. Those dry, arid, and diagrammatic late paintings, filled with brightly colored geomtric bric-a-brac are so dead and lifeless. It is astounding that they were made by the same person who made the brilliant Improvs. It is telling that his late paintings lose absolutely nothing when they are reproduced as glossy posters.

11.

ahab

March 18, 2008, 6:50 PM

I understood the explanation of a C-print, but cannot really sense the process (interesting in and of itself) in the works at all. This must be a failing, I can hardly tell that a person even had a hand in making them.

That said, I like these small digimages well enough. If it weren't for the hashed grid of star-blights, I might like them a lot. And I anticpate that at full-dimension (4' to 10') they'd fall apart under their own weight - like scaling up a daddylonglegs.

12.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 2:38 AM

ahab brings up a good point. You really can't determine what if anything is hand (painted?) and what is formed by some chemical process. I guess the artist drew the shapes into some sort of emulsion. What made me like them initially was the this sort of SF, Tesla, microscope thing going on, but based on numerous experiences I have had with similiar type things in NYC galleries, that "Oh cool." feeling dies on the vine very quickly.

13.

mfoto

March 19, 2008, 4:48 AM

Based on Franklin description, the process is as follows: the artist paints on opaque acetate media, then proceeds to create a photographic 'contact print' by placing the acetate on top of c-print [color paper -instead of b&w] photographic paper, thus creating a 'contact print' on a one-to-one scale. It is a totally 'hands-on' process, as chemicals are only use to develop the image afterwards. Hope this helps.

14.

Franklin

March 19, 2008, 5:05 AM

If I've understood the process correctly, she's actually putting the acetate with the drawing into the enlarger.

15.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 6:52 AM

I think these paintings on canvas by Jon Elliot, which I wrote about a few years ago, are more interesting than the work under discussion.

16.

ahab

March 19, 2008, 7:14 AM

I should've specified visual weight in #11.

I don't care whether or not I can see the marks of the process, I just find the works opaque and unyielding in human information. Except the grid, I guess, which is of that "chilly techie" input that opie points out. I'd like to find some hint or clue of feeling.

17.

ahab

March 19, 2008, 7:17 AM

But still, I find myself liking them as little intricate digital images.

18.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 7:53 AM

I agree, as I did in the beginning of this thread, that they are interesting "little intricate digital images." Beyond that though there isn't much to work with.

19.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 8:01 AM

I've never connected with Kandinsky and now I see why -- I've only really seen his later works. The reproductions of his Improvisations that I can find online make me think that he was a master at color. Which amazes me -- I have so little feel for color.

I also find that Kandinsky didn't start painting until he was in his 30s. There's hope for me yet!

20.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 8:10 AM

Between Kandinsky's late work and his early Improvs, it is like you are dealing with two completely different artists. There is always hope Chris, just remember not to grope the nude models.

21.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 8:17 AM

I would never grope a model! I only grope my wife. I caress models.

No, I'm kidding. I look and don't touch, of course.

Curiously, the more nude women I see, the more I'm interested in portraiture. Not so much straight academic-style portraits, but work involving faces. (Maybe it's because the two artists who organize the drawing sessions I go to are portrait artists and it's rubbing off.)

22.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 8:28 AM

Portrait artists are kind of like the wedding bands of the visual arts world. Obviously the history of art is filled with brilliant and amazing portraits. That isn't what I am saying. Wedding bands make a lot of money, much more money than a bunch of people in a band who play nothing but originals at the corner bar or upload their mp3s (along with millions of other people) to their myspace page (unless of course you are whoring yourself for a politician), make. Wedding bands get regular gigs because people want to have live music at their weddings/affairs. Being a really good cover band can pay off. People from the upper and middle classes love portraits done in a realistic vein, especially portraits of their dogs and children. I am not trying to be facetious. If you were interested in making money from your art, portraits are the way to go.

23.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 9:00 AM

I understand exactly what you're saying, Eric. And I know a few musicians, too, so the metaphor isn't lost on me. I think both the artists and musicians I know -- even the portraitists and the wedding band members -- would agree with you.

I have approximately zero interest in becoming a professional portraitist. Portraits as such bore me. I appreciate, for example, John Singer Sargent, but can't get too excited about his work.

These days I'm interested in portraits but not regular portraits. I'm interested in faces and capturing a certain something, but not in people sitting there in their favorite dress.

These days, too, the career of a portrait artist is at least as much business and making contacts as it is actual art (or craft, if you will). Being successful at portraits means being part accountant and part politician. This user says blech.

24.

Eric

March 19, 2008, 9:19 AM

Portrait painters usually grow their business through word of mouth, "Oh did you see the lovely portrait of Shnookums that the Bradleys had in their dining room?"

I agree that being a professional portrait painter is all about being able to perform the same trick consistently and has little to do with the pursuit of art.

However, complex, beautiful, and artistic portraits have and can be painted. As a genre there is a lot one can learn from making them. Most of the celebrity portraits that pass as high art in the galleries these days are copied from photographs, and are not made using live models.

I personally learned a lot from drawing and painting still-lifes, landscapes, and interiors, but surprisingly enough, I am not really a people person. I did have a great time and learned a lot doing ink drawings of people sleeping on the subway and munching away in fast food places I sat in for hours. The trick is figuring out a way to surreptitiously look at the model without having them figure out what is going on. If they catch on to you they tend to get self consciousness and begin fidgeting, and the drawing goes down the tubes.

25.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 1:05 PM

I used to draw people secretly on the subway or -- better -- the Staten Island Ferry. One time I was pretty sure I caught this guy drawing me, so I carried my pad until the next time I found him, and then I drew him.

I don't do that as much as I used to, although I still sketch waitresses and such. The other day I was trying to draw my hairdresser while she cut my son's hair, but the angle that caught my eye was one she didn't get back into, so I ended up with a swoop of her hair and nothing else in my sketchbook.

When my kids used to fall asleep in odd places, like the couch, I'd draw them. They don't do that any more, though.

26.

Oriane

March 19, 2008, 2:40 PM

Didn't Austin Powers have a special mojo-regaining technique? Personally, I think Obama's race speech gave me back my mojo. (If we were speaking Spanish, would I say my moja?)

27.

Jack

March 19, 2008, 2:53 PM

No, Oriane, you would not. "Moja" is a form of the verb "mojar," which means "to make wet."

28.

ex

March 19, 2008, 3:28 PM

so i guess you were still close, oriane.

29.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 4:09 PM

Must not...imagine...Oriane wet....

ARGH!

30.

Chris Rywalt

March 19, 2008, 4:16 PM

¡Yo moja mis pantalones!

31.

Jack

March 19, 2008, 4:23 PM

Chris, please, control yourself. This is not Eliot Spitzer's blog.

32.

Oriane

March 20, 2008, 2:03 PM

I seem to have stumbled into a smoky, bawdy den of salaciousness. Gentlemen, remember yourselves!

33.

opie

March 20, 2008, 3:16 PM

You know you love it, Oriane.

34.

Chris Rywalt

March 20, 2008, 3:53 PM

My god, OP, I was just about to type precisely that when I hit reload and saw you beat me to it.

35.

Eric

March 20, 2008, 4:10 PM

Obviously lechers think alike.

36.

Chris Rywalt

March 20, 2008, 6:03 PM

This is he second time I've been called a lech in as many days.

I've also seen the word "vapid" about four times and seen two unrelated Canadian bacon jokes on TV. Quite a couple of days.

37.

Eric

March 20, 2008, 6:20 PM

I kid Chris. I kid!

38.

Chris Rywalt

March 20, 2008, 8:24 PM

Oh no, I am in fact a lech. It's okay.

39.

opie

March 20, 2008, 8:27 PM

Being a lech is OK, but Canadian Bacon jokes?

I guess you guys are just coming out of a long cold winter.

40.

ahab

March 20, 2008, 10:16 PM

What's so funny about Canadian bacon?

41.

Eric

March 20, 2008, 10:40 PM

I was just being polite Chris. I know you are a lecherous lechering lech.

42.

Chris Rywalt

March 21, 2008, 6:58 AM

[leers]

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