Ben Heller, Pioneering Collector of Abstract Expressionism: ‘There’s Nobody Else in That League’

Ben Heller’s storied Central Park West apartment was visited by thousands each year. Among his most important holdings was Jackson Pollock’s monumental Blue Poles, which was hung on its own wall.COURTESY NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Ben Heller, who died in 2019, amassed a legendary collection of Abstract Expressionism, supporting artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and others at a time when few else would. But before he dispersed his works to some of the world’s top museums, in particular the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he kept them in his Central Park West apartment. Thousands of visitors made the pilgrimage each year to his home to see masterpieces by the likes of Pollock, Rothko, Franz Kline, and Barnett Newman, with Rothko even referring to Heller’s apartment as “the Frick of the West Side.”

Read the full article here…

Devendra Banhart Exchanges Breath and Rhythm for Pencil and Ink

Installation view of Devendra Banhart: The Grief I Have Caused You at Nicodim Gallery

LOS ANGELES — The Grief I Have Caused You, currently on display at Nicodim Gallery, is artist and musician Devendra Banhart’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. “The ‘you’ in the title is you,” Banhart clarified in an email to Hyperallergic. The show’s press release alludes to the shared experience of the pandemic, along with a constellation of references akin to an Allen Ginsberg poem. “I recently realized that when I first started making art it was all about being me’ as much as possible,” Banhart wrote. “Over time, I’ve realized that it’s really about being less and less and less ‘me.’”

Read the full article here…

Garth Weiser Explores the Limits of Technical Wizardry

Garth Weiser, “Isolette” (2020), oil and digital media on canvas, 89 x 72 inches (courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photography: Karen Pearson and Jason Wyche)

In an essay included in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Garth Weiser: Paintings, 2008-2017, organized by the Contemporary Austin and curated by Louis Grachos, Weiser (quoted by Charles Wylie) says of his paintings: “The surface and the bottom really fight with each other.”  

That dynamic, which is less apparent in the exhibition Garth Weiser, at Casey Kaplan (January 28–March 6, 2021), is what I want to examine. 

In earlier works, Weiser superimposed one kind of abstraction (geometric) on another (gestural), binding together image, form, and texture in ways that were riveting, if not also visually astringent.

Read the full article here…

Uncanny alley: grocery store made out of plastic trash debuts in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall

Artist and director Robin Frohardt poses at The Plastic Bag Store, a public art installation and immersive film in New York City’s Times Square in October 2020.
Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

At a first glance, Robin Frohardt’s New York installation appears to be more of a celebration than an excoriation of the pernicious plastic bag.

From a distance, the cheerfully lit grocery store entices pedestrians in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall with a lurid cornucopia of edible produce, with its own dinky bakery, fruit and veg section, salad bar, dairy and shelves of packaged dry goods.

But it’s not just the incredible prices that turn out to be too good to be true. The thousands of products on display are all handcrafted from decidedly unappetising single-use plastic bags.

Read the full article here…

Books to See and Feel

Masoumeh Mohtadi, “Heart of a Dog” (2017), hand-bound origami books on cardboard and thinner, and printed text 15.7 x 11.8 x 1.8 inches, photograph by Aidin Baftechi

I, like most of the world, have experienced the last ten months from a distance. Avoiding physical closeness in public spaces has become a collective reflex for most of us, all while everyday we crave it more. How strange, then, to be invited to an exhibition that encourages, even necessitates, touch. Out of Sight, Beyond Touch opened in January at the Center for Book Arts in New York City. Curated by Maryam Ghoreishi, the exhibition takes on the timely task of investigating the role of haptics in art and life. Although the symbiotic relationship between sight and touch is the show’s stated subject, it seems to be just as much about translation — between verbal and visual, between visual and physical, and between perceptible and comprehendible. The works by Masoumeh Mohtadi, Shirin Salehi, Bahman Mohammadi, and Amina Ahmed investigate the generative potential of these forms of translation, as well as the rifts in communication they cannot repair.

Read the full article here…

Highlights From the Brooklyn Museum’s KAWS Extravaganza, From Early Graffiti to Sneakers and Sofas

KAWS, WHAT PARTY (2020). (Photo by Ben Davis)

KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, is one of the hottest artists in the world. Which means that the Brooklyn Museum has the hottest ticket in town with the opening of “KAWS: What Party,” a career-spanning retrospective.

The work on view spans a range of genres: early graffiti and street art; paintings appropriating cartoon icons like the Simpsons and the Smurfs (including The Kaws Album, a small canvas that sold for an eye-opening $14.7 million back in 2019); many, many riffs on his signature skull-headed companion figure, sometimes blown up to monumental proportions; various streetwear and toy collaborations, all displayed reverentially; and videos showing some of the artist’s more ambitious recent public interventions.

Read the full article here…

In Inky Blacks and Earthy Pastels, Reggie Burrows Hodges Crafts Collective Portraits

Reggie Burrows Hodges, “On the Verge: Green Field” (2020), acrylic and pastel on linen, 36 x 28 inches

In Reggie Burrows Hodges’s worlds, everyone is in motion — jumping hurdles, dancing, farming, riding a bike. Still, the paintings inspire a sense of stillness and tranquility. Spread out along the walls at Karma, the artist’s New York debut permits space for quiet reflection. 

Within these vibrant portraits, unnamed figures undertake leisurely and arduous tasks in idyllic settings. Faces are blurred and imperceptible, yet somehow evoke a sense of intimacy rather than alienation. Without identifying facial characteristics, we instead focus on the subjects’ actions and surroundings.

Read the full article here…

Ragna Bley’s Cerebral, Swirling Abstractions

Ragna Bley, “Witnesses” (2020), acrylic on sailcloth, 59 x 60 in. Courtesy of the artist and Downs & Ross New York (photo by Daniel Terna)

In nautical terminology, to “sound” is to measure the deep sea. Sounding, which dates back to the 19th century, was the first method of reaching beyond what the sun allowed us to see, in order to study the ocean floor. Today, echo sounding allows researchers to visualize vast bodies of water with corresponding colors — warm shades of red, orange, and yellow for shallows, and dark greens, blues, and purples to connote the depths.

Ragna Bley, a Swedish painter based in Norway, works entirely on her studio floor, pouring gallons of thinned paint onto primed sailcloth. Much like the late Helen Frankenthaler, who treated the seas of Cape Cod as her muses, Bley uses vibrant hues of the natural world to measure emotional depths.

Read the full article here…