Anahita Akhavan

Anahita is an Iranian-Canadian painter and visual art educator based in Toronto. She takes influence in her work from memories of Iran and the cultural signifiers of her homeland in relation to her new adopted home of Canada. She seeks to create a dialogue between immigration and identity that is inspired by the cultural richness and the deep spiritual belief behind Iranian art and architecture.

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And, action!

So no, I’m not planning to start action painting (although*…). I am excited that a new year is underway. Yes I understand the passage of time and human history aren’t impacted by the construct of a calendar that we pastiche on top of our lived experience, and marking the passage of time, as well as reflecting (see my favs from ’22 post if you haven’t) and looking forward can be meaningful. And there you have it- my ongoing interest in the idea that two ideas which seem to contradict can both be true continues.

I do have a couple of new things in the works. In part based on the last, small body of (small) work that I completed (which I found also influenced by the hard edge work I was making 2 decades ago), as well as having a go with shaped canvases or at least containers (most of which have actually been discarded), I’ve found myself moving towards even more graphic painting elements. In particular, there is a small green and pink and purple study I’ve wanted to revisit. The main shift in direction is and will be rooted in my recent reflection on a specific condition of painting- that an implied light source is important (critical?) to understand the illusion in (a) painting, even in the case of an unnatural, fictitious space or place. I like the contradiction/duality of making work also appear to be a source of light, much the same way the stacking of cubes that rely on and deny gravity can be arresting. In addition, there is a pleasing and engaging duality created by having more than one appearance or set of visual characteristics for a painting, given different lighting. Plus, the need to change the lighting to view a work (turning on a black light, or in the case of photo-phosphorescent work, turning off the light) requires participation by an audience which, I think, emphasizes the experiential element of seeing art. Additionally, there is the duality that black-light art is not typically “high art” and gives a gentle entry point for more audiences (I’m totally good with “that’s cool” from the non-art crowd).

I’ve also started a new, (what I will strive to make a) daily practice of drawing, based on Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies. The end goal of this part of my practice will be some source material for another body of work that will incorporate black light and fluorescent paint. *Right out of the gate though, it looks like trying to open up by responding to word prompts and also to be more “automatic” in my approach to mark-making is going to lead to some quite divergent forms…

Edvins Strautmanis

Edvins is no longer with us- Smythe-McKee represents his estate (as they do with several other estates). He was born in Latvia in 1933 and after World War II emigrated with his family to Chicago in 1950. Strautmanis graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and began exhibiting in 1965. After an exploratory hard-edge period in Chicago, working on paintings, sculptures and monotypes.

#edvinsstrautmanis

Jeanne Trippier

I’ve been reading Line Let Loose and Jeanne gets a mention. Daughter of a wine merchant, Tripier Jeanne spent her childhood with her grandmother in the countryside. As an adult, she lived in Montmartre with her son Gustav, whose father was American. Spiritualism entered her life when she was fifty-eight. It was during this period that she started to experience mental distress. Committed in 1934 for “chronic psychosis, logorrhea and megalomania,” Jeanne Tripier developed, during the ten years of her hospitalization, a vision of the world that she transcribed in her Messages relating her interplanetary travel, or Missions on Earth. “Medium of first necessity, holder of the laws of the planet, and the reincarnation of Joan of Arc,” she created drawings in ink, combined with hair dye, nail polish or pharmaceuticals but also embroideries, her needle constituting a formidable weapon. She uttered prophesies, triggered wars, sometimes using secret codes she called “the spherical language.”

#jeannetripier

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt

Curated by Kathleen Reinhardt and first shown at the Albertinum Museum in Dresden, For Ruth, The Sky in Los Angeles: Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and David Horvitz is a living homage to the history of Mail Art and visual poetry and a recognition of their ongoing resonance.

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Triangle favs from 2022

I am not even sure how to write a sentence that expresses how lucky I feel to live in the Triangle. The community that I have been able to experience here is certainly thing 1- and thing 2 is that the art this community (hopefully some of you all!) has shown this year is fantastic! This list of shows will certainly not be a “best of” and clearly is going to be biased towards non-representational work with a few (I hope) surprising exceptions. Ten seemed like a good number for one of these year-end count-down-type lists.

So first and foremost, Clarence Heywards’s UNSEEN at CAM was hands down the best painting show in the Triangle in 2022 and I will gladly catch you outside if you disagree. Not only was the cavernous, main gallery at CAM the ideal siting for these ginormous works, they have a deft combination of sleek yet unshowy craftsmanship and timely social commentary (BIPOC people shown with green screens for skin so that we can all think about the things we project onto blackness that amount to not actually seeing black people, are you kidding me- brilliant!!!). Yes it isn’t abstraction but awesome is awesome.

The rest of these are in no particular order.

My favorite show at Anchorlight was Mike Geary’s Hidden Entrance. The body of work Mike has made probably straddles a line- are they really abstract, or abstractions (there’s a lot that’s biomorphic going on for sure)? There’s an element of automatism in the work which comes through strong- an obsessive development of forms. While a lot of choices are clearly conscious if you read Mike’s statement for the show, there is (they are?) space which Mike creates for impulse and spontaneity, which I vibe with.

Lump exhibited a fantastic if small group of paintings by Zach Storm, along with many of his drawings, called Say What You See. Similar to Mike, I picked up a strong surrealist influence in Zach’s work, commenting to a friend that they felt like Wolfgang Tilmans had a dream of Yves Tanguy and woke up and decided to be a painter. There’s a world building element too that is utterly fascinating and absorbing to me. Yeah for good painting!

One artist I know for sure utilizes automatic drawing is Jason Lord, who, along with Linda Cato, put together Landmarks at DAG’s Golden Belt space. There was an element of belief in something almost magical that I can’t put my finger on- Cato’s journey being more outward and Lord’s inward. Call it a belief in something… greater which makes it no surprise they’ve both abandoned language and embraced abstraction. File under “pairs nicely.”

Readers will know that I have a relationship with Charlotte Russell Contemporary (being included in Experiments in Form was a personal ’22 highlight for me). Bias aside, Charlotte curated In Proximity back in May, which was an amazing two person show of 2 of the best colorists in the Triangle, Kelly Shepherd Murray and Peter Marin.

Speaking of Peter- Diamante Arts and Cultural Center upgraded their space this year and their game with the selection of Peter as head curator. His first show in their new space was a hit- Rosalía Torres Weiner’s Mi Gente , Un Refleio. I had the pleasure of talking with Rosalía at the opening and her paintings and pallet reflect the energy of her personality.

There is probably no more appropriate venue in Raleigh for a show of Pop Art than 311 gallery, given it is the space in town where commerce and culture collide and the fact that Pop is and should be exactly what it appears to be on the surface. OMG WOW is also perhaps the best show title of any other I saw this year. Perhaps the best part was, with 80 (!) artists, you had to hunt for your favorites- kind of like, well, popular culture!

I think I can speak for all painters in the Triangle when I say we appreciate the shows that Ashlyn Browning curates (she ain’t a bad painter herself) and Color/Form at Block gallery was a certainly a gift. Jerstin Crosby‘s loopy geometry never disappoints and Martha Clippinger regularly unravels (I’m hilarious right?) many of our silly ideas about what is painterly- together, even more fun.

A-Piece A-Part at Artspace is one of the only shows on this list that readers can still get out to see (up till 2-12-23). I do enjoy seeing something I’ve never seen before (I am an American artist after all) and this show delivers. Regina Jestrow’s and Allan Rosenbaum’s delight with materiality makes this a really tactile show.

And last but definitely not least (and up through January 8), Nasher Museum’s Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948 – 1960 is the most instructive experience I had in an exhibit this year (fitting for a museum). The story we get is one of a young Roy attempting to find his voice by synthesizing Modernism and the idea of an avant-garde. There’s so much to process and think on- our definitions of Modernism and what it was like to ivnvetigage that epoch as lived experience; to digest European ideas about the relationship of archetype and myth to form and use that energy to transmute the stories Americans tell themselves about who we are; and certainly not least of all, that he did have a period where he made abstraction prior to his Pop brushstrokes.