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art reviews

Nancy Pantirer

New Art Center, New York >>

ByKristin Reger

Adam Krueger
Coleman Burke, New York 

ByMegan Marie Garwood

Paul Kolker
Studio 601, New York 

ByMary Hrbacek

2009 Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City
Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 

ByChristopher DeWolf


Nancy Pantirer

New Art Center, New York

By Kristin Reger

Nancy Pantirer studied at the Hartford University School of Art and earned a Masters of Arts from Montclair State College before coming to New York where she has a studio in Tribeca. Her painting deals largely with color field, and during her recent show called “Elements of Illusion” the New Art Center (see Midtown Listings) Kristin Reger of M spoke with Ms. Pantirer about her work.


So is this your first solo show?
No, I’ve shown at the New Art Center for ten years.

How did that relationship start?

They used to be on 57th Street and I had submitted slides. It was three years before Serge [the gallery owner] had called me; the work had completely changed since then!

Sometimes it takes that long.
It’s a great relationship, he’s helped analyze and influenced my work.

How many pieces do you have in this show, it looks like some of them are quite different.
There are seven in this show. One is very large, it was
exciting for me; I’d never before transported a piece this large. But it all came together.

Your studio is in Tribeca? Was it hard to find a big enough space down there?
I’m very lucky, I’m in an old warehouse, and I’ve been there for a long time.

Artists these days usually have to settle for space out in Long Island City or Brooklyn, so that’s fantastic. There must be wonderful benefits to being in Tribeca; studio visits… museums…
Well, unfortunately I have to be honest, when I work, I rarely get out! I have to make myself get out sometimes. I saw the Kandinsky [at the Neue Galerie] show, it was magnificent.

Speaking of that, what artists would you note as your influences in this body of work? My champions are the abstract expressionists, the color field painters, particularly Dan Christensen. It’s also an extension of me and has become much more about surface and
illusion, elements of painting.

"Elements of Illusion" is the name of the exhibition.
Painting is the ultimate illusion. You can define space and composition, color takes off and has its own variable, and its own strengths. It’s very two-dimensional,
but moves in to the third dimension. There’s huge
reference to Rothko. It’s clean and truthful.

The work is very present and ethereal, very serene. What materials do you use, it’s hard to tell from looking...

I’m basically an acrylic painter. The powdery material is iron oxide, I’ve been seduced by it for years. I take an eggbeater and whip my paint with a thinning agent and it breaks up the binding. When I apply it, I get more movement. It’s a foam emulsion. There’s a tremendous amount of control but there’s also an organic element that takes over.

Usually artists work in the reverse, they make their own pigments, but you’re actually taking things apart; it’s interesting since you’re an abstract painter deconstructing.
My work is about process. I work on the floor. I don’t want to become to dependent on up and down. I walk around. Without sounding too romantic, it’s like a dance!

There is a lot of gesture.
To keep them open, I work as large as I can. I work unstretched sometimes, I crop the canvases. These other works are something new for me; I worked with a printmaker, they are pigment on paper, as opposed to ink. They’re images of other works. Much of the detail went into the color and the quality of the print. The paintings themselves were much more experiential, these works are like looking at something under a microscope. They became much more articulate in this format.

Everything is very organic, these prints seem to have a martian landscape, and then there’s a butterfly.
But that’s what the mind does; it brings its own imagery. It’s almost impossible to absorb something purely abstractly. Our brains are wired by association.
The most challenging thing to me is to have it not be something. How it ends up doesn’t really matter, the most beautiful orchid... In the process it is hard to keep it pure and devoid of anything that might be in my mind.

When you say surface, I think of textile techniques. Have you studied any crafts?
I have a masters in painting. I did work at a few schools including Pratt. I’ve done a lot of three-dimensional work. I enjoy the tension between two and three dimensions. That’s where these paintings sit, moving forward, backward, traditional elements of painting; there’s background, foreground, things you generally only interpret through figurative painting, landscape or still life.

The works are graphic; they seem flat, subtle.
I soak my canvases with water so that the threads are more able to let the paint travel. It’s not an invention, it’s one of the principles of color field painting. The materials open my mind to different approaches. I have this whole topological thing going on, I can see it’s going to be a long investigation.

Your works seems clean and premeditated, is it hard to distill it?
I have a very impulsive nature, I work on many pieces at a time, it keeps the investment lower in each individual piece; I can’t become to entrenched, I can understand all of the works in the context of the others.

How do you choose your palette?
I was actually working in grayscale for the longest time. I could not escape! I used floor polisher. Then I came to the studio one day, and thought, I need color! I really just let it go! I acted upon one color, threw it down and built upon that. The only rule I follow is I usually work light to dark.

You caught me at floor polisher…
Well that’s not in this work, but in these I do use a broom. It’s the best way to move paint at this scale. A little brush is not going to do it! It’s about capturing movement, these are not stagnant paintings. The gesture is the language.

Have you ever-studied dance; has that been an influence in your life?
Um, I move... No, I’ve never studied dance! There’s a sense of orchestration and choreography that is metaphorical to dance. But I can’t dance.

Well, you can certainly paint. The square seems to lend itself well to moving around and getting into the heart of the canvas. I’m not sure how you did the large pieces though.
I had to build a bridge structure over them; just to study, not to paint. Then I got the big broom.

I worked with a choreographer once who incorporated painting into her performance. The documentation that came out of the rehearsals turned out to be the best art from the project. Have you ever considered filming your studio practice?
I wrestle with that. I built a ramp in my studio; I was interested in skiing down this ramp with paint on the skis, actually an insane idea. The final product was not great, but the process was so investigative, it’s given me the idea! I’m definitely open to that idea. I’m becoming more exposed to video art.

Then you have another art form to deal with, it might change your trajectory...
And that’s ok. It’s all about exploration.

So what’s on the horizon for you?
I’m involved with the Tribeca Open Studio Program, so that’s the next big thing. I won’t need to clean my studio until April!


Adam Krueger         

Coleman Burke, New York 

ByMegan Marie Garwood

Adam Krueger’s solo exhibition Untitled (saran wrap painting) comprised of some eighteen works that manipulate traditional painting and installation techniques, offers its own surprises. Though ethereal in exhibition, the layers of Krueger’s creation process (cutouts of paintings fixed directly to the wall) result in the viewer’s inherent attraction to and bemusement by these works. Krueger’s deliberate ambiguity challenges the viewer to fill the “voids”. Ergo, his work plays with negative space in such a way that disrupts a seemingly-fluid painting.

The wall piece Fly in Ointment shows this effect well. Cut into numerous pieces, the oil painting (adhered to PVC plastic before the wall) presents a hyper-realistic woman adorned with useless hair curlers (she is bald) taped to her head stacking imaginary cups, which rise from the negative space of the wall. The white void, now filled with a castle of precariously stacked cups, conceals most of her body, but through several separated, floating pieces as the viewer glimpses her striped socks, folded stomach, a shadow cast down her shoulder and the illuminated contours of her breasts. As she
attempts to set another cup, she seems to shield her face from the viewer’s gaze, as if captured in an awkward moment. She is a puzzle for the viewer to assemble mentally.

The dichotomy of Krueger’s esoteric execution style, a layering of fastidious planning and completion, can be confusing. Initially, his work begins with a set idea grounded in photography. After a myriad of photographs taken, he chooses one that embodies that something. Working with a computer design program, he amalgamates graphic art with realistic painting by using the photograph as the subject of his canvas work. He sketches the complete image onto a canvas and then paints in manner that references Italian Renaissance ideals of naturalistic portraits. His surface dries evenly, thinly and precisely, without a trace of the artist’s hand. Krueger follows the photographs so closely that these life-like paintings become blurry in parts, just as in photography. For example, the contours of the wall work Audience, featuring only a teal skirt pulled taut by anonymous hands, dissolve into the white wall while a troupe of three masked monkeys mock the one-legged figure.

Brazenly, he cuts the canvas discarding certain sections and thereby destroying months of work. While installing, he positions the cut canvas to a new surface and fabricates a site-specific composition. Though distorted, the painting still reveals Krueger’s concept. The finished painting, held together by imaginary space, leaves the viewer in wonder what has been excluded, as much as to contemplate what remains.

To be sure, other artists who have invited us into their self-consciousness (such as Tracey Emin had more-abrasively welcomed us into her bed), Krueger’s works demand interaction from the viewer. Cut pieces of his canvas are applied to “cut outs” depicting life-size human figures with removed faces that resemble carnival-like wooden displays in which identity is hidden. The most approachable works in the show prove to be the most unmanning.  

For example, the green-hued cut-out, In Show, immediately gets attention due to its sheer size and remarkably-detailed naturalistic portrayal of its subject. Standing in contraposita pose, a woman is depicted like an Olympian contestant waiting to be judged.

A timid minimalistic cut-out of a waif-like ballerina, All I Want For…, nudges the viewer to ask, What does she want? What do I want? Depicted nearly pure white and “trimmed” with a single thread of Christmas lights, she is nearly missed by the crowd, even though her hand is raised in an attempt to waive down attention. Krueger
delineates her right breast and protruding rib, along with a few strands of her hair with soft strokes of purple oil paint; the seemingly delicate ballerina allows the viewer to project one’s own desires and inner-thoughts onto her.

Each work in the exhibition is very different from the next, as if each were a unique entry from the artist’s personal journal conveying scattered emotive reactions to daily encounters. This incongruity of works is actually what strings the series together; the chaotic array of displaced and disfigured works mimics one’s own ephemeral and sometimes forgotten reflections. In the wall painting, Punctured, a waning balloon collecting a pile of string as it falls casts a shadow on the wall with neatly-
applied human hair.

While human form is the predominate motif in these works, Krueger neither outwardly critiques nor celebrates the subjects. A separate space in the gallery, painted black, is dedicated to the wall work Original Premium. A haunting gray image of a man’s portrait comprises most of this composition. The “original premium” product appears to be the man himself and not the faint crackers seen in the background. M


Paul Kolker

Studio 601, New York

By Mary Hrbacek


In his digitally inspired paintings, Paul Kolker embeds images and text into tightly compressed formats comprised of circular forms and dots. Shifts in color and tone within these forms convey abstract messages that evoke microscopic views of matter. The images become recognizable when seen from a distance. Perceptually, the forms may seem to be located in the infinite space regarded as the macrocosmic level of the universe.

In a process the artist dubs “Fracolor,” Kolker employs primary colors, alternately mixed with white or black, to generate a range of tints and tones. The dot is the formal vehicle of expression that produces recognizable shapes and words, through a division of color not unlike pointillism or divisionism. While the work is related in appearance to computer games or even children’s colorful plastic pegboards, it is most akin visually to the Op Art that became particularly prominent in the works of Victor Vasarely in the 1970’s.

In his artistic process, Kolker creates images with the geometry used in the fractal mathematics of computer graphics. He fragments the digital photographic image and then he paints it, making a silk screen grid limited to colored dots. The artist’s complex technological and aesthetic explorations delve into the interrelationship of our human feelings and intuitions with technology. He finds illumination in the continuing dialogue that exists between machine and artist, at the nexus of making art. M 

2009 Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City
Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism

By Christopher DeWolf


New land, new cities — there's more than just a railroad linking Hong Kong and
Shenzhen. The fates of both cities are intertwined as they try to chart a path for the
future. For Hong Kong, new land has been reclaimed from the sea, slated for shopping malls and highways but also theatres and museums. Shenzhen has grown at a nearly
unprecedented scale, transforming itself from a patchwork of farmland and fishing villages into an increasingly important metropolis in just thirty years. In the coming years, Hong Kong wants to cement its role not only as a world business hub but as a cultural one, too. Shenzhen wants to fast-forward its evolution from a manufacturing center to an economic capital.

With such ambitious plans, it is not surprising that the latest edition of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism is the most broad-minded and energetic to date. Both cities have invited dozens of artists, architects and designers to participate in a vast program of film, discussions and exhibitions. Both sides of the biennale have eschewed a traditional gallery-based approach by occupying public spaces like shopping malls, vacant lots and a giant ceremonial square. Beyond the general thrust of their ideas though, the Hong Kong and Shenzhen sides feel quite distinct, both in the way they have been organized and in they choose to emphasize.

Marisa Yiu is the chief curator of the Hong Kong side, housed in the biennale's main pavilion, a lightweight structure made of paper tubes, designed by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Less a self-contained pavilion than a gateway arch, it is meant to invite people into the main part of the biennale's site, which is a collection of exhibits and installations strung out along a dirt road that snakes through a rugged, vacant piece of land. Since it was reclaimed more than fifteen years ago, this part of West Kowloon has been fenced-off, left idle and taken over by nature. Craggy trees and knots of wild grass give the site the feel of a rare bit of countryside that has been passed over by development. It's a surreal experience to walk through the grass with Hong Kong's glossy skyline visible in all directions.

"We wanted encourage this as an open dialogue with open collaboration," says Yiu. "We really wanted to encourage discourse on various issues, to be apolitical through action and activism, to encourage creativity that would bring about questions and more participation from the larger public. It's not a biennale for academia only, which I think is often the typical biennale approach, like in Venice, which is a showcase of innovation and creativity, but for creative professionals, not the masses."

The site in West Kowloon is constantly evolving, with a packed schedule of outdoor discussions, concerts, film screenings and other events. Many of the installations are constantly being worked and reworked by artists throughout the biennale, including Eco Farm — Green Pixel, a container garden created by the architect Humphrey Wong and organic farmer Pad Chu. In November, the two invited the public to plant hardy, edible plants in square paper containers that had been arranged in a spiral pattern at the biennale site, a kind of hypnotic garden. The plants are growing as the biennale progresses. "This is the winter season, which is actually the best season for growing, because it's normally quite dry and sunny," says Chu.

A number of other site-specific installations comment directly on the ruggedness of the West Kowloon site. Live Nature, by Ida Sze and Billy Chan, consists of a wood living space, complete with seats and a pseudo-hammock, built around a pre-existing tree. Second Skin, by Peter Benz and a class of Academy of Visual Arts students, attempts to domesticate West Kowloon's wildness by dressing up its trees in whimsical pink skirts. In a remote corner of the site, designer Douglas Young has made a replica of the Kowloon Walled City (a massive vertical slum that was demolished in the early 1990s) as a celebration of Hong Kong's indigenous architecture; it is direct rebuke to the generically modern new skyscrapers that have been built next to the biennale site.  

An hour away by train — not including the time it takes to cross the border — the Shenzhen side of the biennale is set in a markedly different environment. The Shenzhen Civic Centre is massive and grandiose, fronted by an enormous square and built along an impressive axis that leads from the skyscrapers of the city's new
central business district to the wooded slopes of Lianhua Mountain. Choosing the Civic Centre as the main site for the biennale was a deliberately provocative act. Ou Ning, the Shenzhen side's chief curator, says that he wanted to humanize the space by filling it with interactive installations; and he also wanted to send a send a message about public participation in Shenzhen's political, economic and urban development.
Standing tall in sharp contrast with the ostentatious modernism of the Civic Centre, Brazilian architecture firm Triptyque's Creature is a bizarre, primitive tower made from bamboo and straw. Beneath the Civic Centre's swooping roof is Portuguese-American architect Rigo 23's Snow Bull Station, a giant water buffalo made of mud and bamboo that contains a video installation about Shenzhen residents and their experience of the city. Nearby, the French architecture firm Bureau du Mésarchitecture has co-opted the language of commercial infrastructure to create Double Happiness, a
billboard-come swing set. Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Maurer United Architects' Modular Pavilion, a giant outdoor reading room that turns the austere, belittling environs of the Civic Centre into a giant, family-friendly reading room that is lit up well into the night.

"Our theme is 'City Mobilization’," Ou says,
staring out at the Civic Centre's square on a chilly day. "In the traditional political model, for example during the Cultural Revolution, political leaders often mobilized the people to participate in the politics just for the party. So the people didn't participate for themselves, it was for the leader or the government, for the party. Now in China there's a new political model that means a lot of citizens, for example during the demolition process [of urban neighbourhoods], can actually negotiate with the government. They participate in politics not just for the state but for themselves. I would like to use the biennale to mobilize the people to use their public space and to engage them and to get them to think more about the city, politics and their rights as citizens." M 

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