June Leaf at Edward Thorp Gallery

Many words can be written about the work of American artist June Leaf. She has maintained a visionary style since emerging as a seminal contingent of post-WWII American artists committed to representational imagery through uniquely expressive means. It’s due time that she’s getting recognition on a grand scale with a major exhibition at The Whitney and a career survey at the Edward Thorp Gallery, where she is represented. Below is a visual essay of the current June Leaf exhibition at Edward Thorp Gallery. The show is on view through June 4, 2016.
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Broken Grey Wires

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Lizz Brady. Installation view during alt_break art fair 2016 at The Fountain House Gallery. 

The result of the artist making art is the release of that work from the artist to the viewer. Art has the means to be cathartic by releasing the artist’s innermost thoughts and sharing them with the outside world. Once the artwork is released, it is the role of the viewer to make connections from the fragmented pieces that the artist released. Studies have suggested that there is viable evidence for a neurological relationship between visual creativity and language.

Lizz Brady, an artist based in the United Kingdom explores various themes relating to mental health and mindfulness, which yearn to harmonize the expressive and psychological artistic process with the subjective experience of the viewer.

Brady is the founder of Broken Grey Wires (BGW), an art collective that seeks to create a comfortable and welcoming space for creative minds to engage in topics that concern mental health and psychology. Below Lizz Brady and I discuss the benefits of art within the areas of psychology and mental health.

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Rhino Horn Artist Updates!

There’s quite a lot of exciting news involving past-Rhino Horn artists. Co-Founder Benny Andrews currently has work in a group show titled Hereat the Arts and Sciences Center for Southeast Arkansas. The show, which runs through October 15, 2016, presents a selection of art by African-American artists from the museum’s permanent collection.

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June Leaf, Twin Volcanoes, 1951, Ink on paper, 8.5″ x 9″ Courtesy of Ed Thorp Gallery, New York.

June Leaf has two important upcoming retrospectives in New York City.  The first is Leaf’s major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which opens tomorrow, April 27th. The exhibition will focus mainly on her incredible large scale drawings. The second exhibition, organized by Edward Thorp Gallery will showcase works in a variety of mediums during her career from 1949 to most recently and will open on Thursday, April 28th. The exhibition will run concurrently with the Whitney show. June Leaf has been represented by Edward Thorp Gallery located in New York City since 1985.

Jennifer Samet recently spoke with June at her New York City studio and has published the inspiring conversation on Hyperallergic in a segment called “Beer with a Painter.

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Jay Milder, # 13, 2016, Oil Stick on Rag Paper, 20″ X 26″, Courtesy of the artist and Quogue Gallery.

Rhino Horn Co-Founder, Jay Milder’s latest work will be on view at Quogue Gallery beginning May 12 and running through June 15, 2016. The exhibition titled Noah’s Ark: Many Views focuses on Milder’s recurring Kabbalistic interpretations of the covenant between G-d and humankind, envisioned through vivid works on paper and canvas that recall spray-can graffiti and embody a brilliant spectrum.

Suggested Reading: Spring Ahead Edition

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– “a lot of curation today leads to the homogenization of emerging cultures — emerging from the perspective of the West — instead of forming collaborative exchanges with people that fall outside the dominant art world.” Art-world darling and sometimes provocateur Oscar Murrillo says that flushing his passport down the toilet mid-flight to Australia wasn’t done in protest. via New York Times

– Two major museum surveys organized by the Centre Pompidou and Sharjah Biennale feature the art of the Egyptian Surrealist Movement. Unfortunately, Egypt’s Ministry of Culture has rejected this art historical movement. via The Cairo Review

– Art Historian, Harriet F. Senie published a new book titled Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11 (Oxford University Press), which examines the way we memorialize contemporary tragic events. Some of the main issues Senie addresses is how to define the new memorial paradigm that conflates memorials and cemeteries; consider the practice of heroicizing victims; point out what is lost when any mention of the perpetrators is eliminated; and emphasize problematic aspects of the memorial process. Senie will give a talk at Pen & Brush on Tuesday, April 19th (don’t forget to vote in the NY primaries!). Her talk will focus on two specific events, which she covers in her book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and Columbine. via Pen & Brush

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Nicki Green’s Revolution

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Nicki Green, Chanterelle Bricks, (edition of 18), 2016, Glaze on found brick, 8″ x 4″ x 3″ each

Nicki Green is an artist from the Bay Area, whose multi-disciplinary work includes, ceramics and textiles that examine the legacy of marginalized communities. Green’s use of traditional materials like ceramics and textiles conflate the tangible and hermatic forces within the human condition. They’re objects that encompass the history of marginalized individuals and reflect on the visibility of contemporary marginalized communities. Her ceramic and brick works are ubiquitous objects that also employ revolutionary tactics.

Nicki’s work is currently on view in the group exhibition (SIGNAL) at Smack Mellon on view through April 17, 2016. The exhibition, curated by Alexis Heller, is a poignant survey of contemporary artists whose work challenges the gender binary. Additional artists include: Jess T. Dugan, Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, Rhys Ernst & Zackary Drucker, Young Joon Kwak, Carlos Motta, Cobi Moules, Chelsea Thompto, Gil Yefman, and Rona Yefman.

I recently had the pleasure of asking Nicki a few questions about her work:

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Art from Inside Caged Hearts and Souls

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There’s enough evidence to make the point that our prison system is a failure. It is one of the only criminal justice systems within the modernized world where there’s too little focus on rehabilitation. That is not to say that the work of prison activists haven’t created significant models for change within the system. In fact, the focus on the arts and creation of artist run programs has been a major form of rehabilitation and catharsis within American prisons.

In the early 1970s, around the time that Benny Andrews was showing with the Rhino Horn group, he began an arts program inside of the local New York jails. The “Prison Art Program” was developed by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), which Andrews co-founded to advocate to represent African American’s rights within the cultural sector. The Prison Art Program was initiated through a drawing class that Andrews taught inside of the Manhattan House of Detention (known as The Tombs). The program would eventually grow to develop 37 projects in 14 states. The highly influential Prison Art Program enlisted many successful working artists such as Andrews and Faith Ringgold to work with prisoners on art projects.

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From Mosaic to Man

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Untitled (Two Figures on Mosaic Background), oil on wood mounted on wood shingle, c. 1953, 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

From Mosaic to Man on view at Lori Bookstein Fine Art is a seminal examination of the painter Jan Müller’s (1922-1958) transformative style. The exhibition features a group of early paintings and late that highlight Müller’s transition from painting colorful mosaic-like abstractions to incorporating blatant representational imagery.

Müller is considered to be one of the first practitioners to realize the conflation of both figurative and abstract expressionism during the early 1950s. Upon arriving in New York and Provincetown’s flourishing artist community, the German refugee found artistic kinship from his fellow native countryman Hans Hofmann. Müller studied with Hofmann at his school from 1940 to 1950, and the two German-born painters had great admiration for each other, despite consistent disagreements and passionate debates regarding their diverse ideas about painting. Müller stated (published in Marika Herskovic’s 2009 survey, American Abstract and Figurative Expressionism) “The artist … cannot take flight to the Elysian Fields of the preciousness of perfection, the prism of the eye, but has to deal with matter complex.” This quote was in stark contrast to the dialectic that Clement Greenberg was espousing at the time, which celebrated formalism – taught by Hofmann and employed by Pollock, Rothko, and others – as being rendered pure because it removed itself from all extrinsic effects. Another quote by Müller (published in “Airless Despair,” Time, 2 February, 1962) elaborated “Abstraction is no longer enough for me. So I am returning to the image. The image gives me a wider sense of communication.”

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Super Tuesday

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Leonard Reibstein, Great Again, 2016.

While the country nervously awaits the results of a Super Tuesday that can propel Donald Trump to the top of the GOP pack, many rational people are bewildered about how such an unlikely event has become a reality.

Trump’s campaign antics are directly aimed at the Americans who’ve long been marginalized due to their radical and hateful views. With David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan endorsing Trump, and given Trumps unwillingness to disavow the hatemonger’s praise; it is evident that Trump knows that his demographic includes anti-Semitic, racist, and xenophobic individuals. Worse yet, he has been embracing them all along.

Perhaps there is no more resounding work of art to express the madness and fear of a nation in crisis than Leonard Reibstein’s witty, yet gravely serious painting Great Again (2016). Reibstein’s work is at once a history painting and an art history painting. The painter juxtaposes Trump with a recognizable Klansman a la Philip Guston, the two figures form a pyramid by touching their finger tips together, symbolizing the creation of evil. Through the touching of fingers they symbolize their creation in the likeness of evil. This imagery is reminiscent of G-d and Adam in the Sistine Chapel, where G-d is reaching out to Adam -indicative of their hands not yet touching-  to give him life and signify that the image of G-d is reflected in man, yet they’re not on the same level. In Reibstein’s image, however, the two figures are in effect one and the same, just as Guston’s Klansmen were meant to be ironic self-portraits.

Guston reflected about his crude and poignant Klansmen paintings ‘They are self-portraits. I perceive myself as being behind the hood. In the new series of ‘hoods’ my attempt was really not to illustrate, to do pictures of the Ku Klux Klan, as I had done earlier. The idea of evil fascinated me […] I almost tried to imagine that I was living with the Klan. What would it be like to be evil? To plan, to plot.’ (Guston quoted in Philip Guston Paintings 1969-1980, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1982, p. 54.)

What would the late socially engaged artist say about Trump’s persona? Guston and his family of Jewish-Canadian decent were familiar with the terror and hatred that the Ku Klux Klan represented. I’d imagine that his response wouldn’t be too far off from the statement that Reibstein made. The black outlines of the buildings along the skyline says it so subtly.