Monday, February 29, 2016


C A R O L   H E F T : 
W o r k  o n  P a p e r
March 2016

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Carol Heft starts a marvelously spirited conversation in her new collage work on paper. It is a fascinating  discourse shaped by all kinds of invention and possibilities, filled with mercurial passion, tempered by profound intellect, deftly guided by feeling, fueled by whimsical imagination, and overseen by a keen and seasoned eye.

Carol Heft: Work on Paper, Blue Mountain Gallery

There is no mistaking the diverse interactive tapestry of visual experience launched by Carol Heft: Work on Paper at the Blue Mountain Gallery in New York this March. Now the viewer has a chance to jump into the conversation, and this back and forth gets elevated to such a wonderfully lively intensity.

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Carol Heft, Blue Mountain Gallery installation, March 2016

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

This is the nature of her work; her sensibility dictates that we are part of the exchange. It doesn't completely work if we are not. There is a bit of Lauren Bacall when kissing Humphrey Bogart in To Have And Have Not: "It's even better when you help."

This is the gift of Carol Heft's work. The give and take. We get to listen in. We get to join in. But the truth is, it is even better when we join in. If and when we do is critical to the experience.

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

"I’m happy with the process and the product," Carol Heft says in talking about her work. "It is an extension of my recent experiments with collage, drawing and painting. The paper “overlays” are like stencils and add a kind of relief sculpture element, with shadows, to the surface, which I find interesting."

Carol Heft: Work on Paper, Blue Mountain Gallery

Abstract and semi-abstract 2 and 3D elements are at play in this work. Drawing and collage converse wildly; shapes loosely move in and outside the lines, there is rapid fire gesture, there is layered history, there is revelatory clarification, and in most cases highly animated color gets the party started.

"The combination of drawing, scribbling, painting, collage, layering lines, using the shadows," she explains, "these are the most exciting aspects of some of the “Window” pieces that have a stencil like overlay which is then worked and reintegrated into the overall picture plane and space. I see this as an endless source of inspiration, using an infinite range of design elements in the process."

Carol Heft: Work on Paper, Blue Mountain Gallery

Engaging the works on paper up close, we enter into her world. We are not just located, we are on board.

"The work in this exhibition is all relatively small, 18 x 24 mostly, and on paper. The humble materials, some recycled drawings that are layered with stencils, and the stream of consciousness imagery, are all part of a direction I have been working toward; one of freedom and new ways of conceiving composition."

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

In this Work on Paper, all done in 2016, we get an endlessly unfolding experience. Part puzzle, part pop-up, part Mardi Gras parade, part board game, part live band, we enjoy a shifting, moving, energetic, illusory, baffling roadmap to someplace we have never been, where the signs point every which way, and some pills make you larger and some pills make you small. Welcome to Carol's Wonderland.

"The uniformity of the scale of the work and my attitude about relative scale and size has opened up a bit. Whether the work is an object, window, screen, field or portal has always interested me. How the space experienced in the picture plane depends on many factors, including the relationship between the size of the work and the size of the human body."

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Here is the quiet riot and brilliant fun of these beautiful works. Carol Heft invites us to sit down to her Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  Pass the marmalade.  Let the celebration begin!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, March, 2016

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Carol Heft: Work on Paper

The Blue Mountain Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of work by Carol Heft from March 1 – 26, 2016.  The exhibition will include collage, drawing, painting, digital images, and constructions in a variety of materials. Ms. Heft’s work is inspired by an exploratory approach to materials, and the interchange of two and three dimensional space on flat surfaces. Her new work combines physical and illusionary layers of space populated by imaginative formal combinations. Careful attention to composition born of random arrangements are juxtaposed in compelling designs.

There will be a concert and gallery talk on March 26, Saturday, from 2:00 – 4:00  at the gallery performed by The Bill Warfield Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra.

Born in 1954, Carol Heft studied painting with Robert Brackman, National Academician, from the age of 12 – 16.  She then attended the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied with Lisa Chase, Leland Bell, Judy Pfaff, and other visiting artists and instructors.  After graduating in 1976, Ms. Heft moved to New York City, where she currently lives and works.  Carol Heft teaches drawing, painting, 2 dimensional design, and technical drawing at Muhlenberg College, and Cedar Crest College, in Allentown PA, and St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, NY.  Contact Marcia Clark at the gallery for further information

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Carol Heft, Untitled, 2016, on paper, 18x24",
collage w/ watercolor, gouache, charcoal, pencil

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Helen Frankenthaler, 1963, THE BAY, 81 x 82"

Helen Frankenthaler transformed the interior landscape as abstract painting in a way that no one else has before or since. Her epic and panoramic expanses hold true to a world and universe unfettered and uninfluenced by man or men. It is a place devoid of ego, and free from everything that that entails. Despite its correspondence with land and sea and sky it is a pure abstraction that we haven't seen since Popova, and may never see again.

Helen Frankenthaler, 1973, HINT FROM BASSANO

It reflects a place unique in the aesthetic experience of 20th century modernism. A kind of non-intellectual dialogue that is difficult for most of us to grasp. Something Zen. Where there is no "there there." *  The sort of wonderful liberation of form from self and purpose that befuddles most of us.

Helen Frankenthaler

Plenty of abstract painters have sought this kind of painterly nirvana. Pollock, Resnick, Seliger, Poons, Louis, de Kooning, Hofmann, and of course, Motherwell, to name just a few. But somehow THEY were always present. Their will. Their mission. Their agenda. Their mark.

Helen Frankenthaler, 1990, RED SHIFT, 60 x 70"

What makes Frankenthaler so magnificent is that she was able to make a world that we knew was hers without leaving her stamp on it, that she could sidestep the paradox, that she could compose without being the composer. That like Bruce Springsteen's street poet, could just "stand back and let it all be."

Charles Seliger, 1995, TEMPEST, 14 x 14 "
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

An artist like Charles Seliger indeed tried to tread ever so lightly in his ethereal abstractions, and did, but couldn't help but leave the tiniest trace, a footprint here, a fingerprint there, a stain, an overall perfume. He tried to get so small, to leave himself behind, and said in effect, just ignore little old me and look where I am pointing. See the cosmos that I see. He got so very close, but again some paradox kept getting in the way. Some catch 22.  The law of attraction. It became a snag. Mortal like the rest of us.  How could he elude the "there there?"

Bill Jensen, 2010-11, LOUHAN(Dark Angel), oil on linen, 28 x23"
Courtesy of Cheim&Read

Twenty years or so ago one of the best living American painters, Bill Jensen, crossed over that threshold and has never looked back. He parked his ego and got out and walked. We are still watching. His paintings intrigue us in this very way. They flirt with that edge. Maybe they are there. Maybe they are long gone.

Mark Rothko, 1951, BLUE, GREEN AND BROWN

Over sixty years ago Rothko gave us a misty place, but it was still a kind of figure of sorts, something profoundly ontological, a question, a prime mover, a God. Western Man has this hang-up: themes; man vs nature, man vs society, man vs himself, man vs God. Man, man, man!

Helen Frankenthaler
Here she is the figure in her paintings that are the ground;
When we view her work we stand in her shoes. 

Frankenthaler, one of the great but often overlooked abstract artists of the last century, gives us none of this. Just a ground. Just an invisible frame. A wide open window. Something like the weather. A view to uninhabited space. A view to a beautiful but savage universe.

Helen Frankenthaler, 1972, CHINA II, 80 x 105"

This is what is also so interesting about the work. As it seems so non-intellectual we assume that it is governed by emotions. So "just like a woman." That it is a rich emotional landscape. Overflowing with clichéd "feminine feelings." Positively dripping with them. Watery. Colorfully so!

Helen Frankenthaler, 1950-1959, Gagosian installation(2013)

Ironically, nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead it is rather a heartless world. A pitiless, uncaring world. So like nature itself. A world to which we become the witness; we become the figure on the ground. An infinite world of power and change and growth and decay and survival and consequence without human attributes or sentiments like justice, and fairness, and what is right and wrong. Which is what makes the work so awesome and terrifyingly beaufiful. It just is.

Helen Frankenthaler, 1979, CAROUSEL, Installation Palm Springs Art Museum

Helen Frankenthaler, 1969, BLESSING THE FLEET

Helen Frankenthaler

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, Feb. 2016

*Gertrude Stein, when writing about her hometown of Oakland, California

Sunday, February 07, 2016


Paintings from the 1980s
February 4 - April 2, 2016

Washburn Gallery Installation

Doug Ohlson's work stands its ground. Always has. This makes it imposing. Formidable. Even intimidating. It speaks of strength; it speaks of character. It also makes it surprising and unexpected, all the more so because on some level it seems so unsurprising and so expected. This subtly paradoxical spine of the paintings charges them with enormous power and tension.

Cadman's Blue, 1982, oil and acrylic on canvas, 84 x 176 in.

At first glance we might think we know the work already, this kind of work, this kind of hard edged, large-scaled, rectilinear abstraction. This kind of massive minimalistic fabrication. We might dismiss it. We might feign immunity to it. Claim we are inured. Mistake. It is only when we brave the paintings physically, and personally, that we get them. That we hear them. When we let go of what we think we know and think we see, and then engage the work on Ohlson's terms. When we let them have their way. Then he speaks. Then he makes music. Then he takes charge, and takes us on a trip of color and space, and light and force. Great force. With great passion.

Shooting for 19, 1981, acrylic on canvas, 66 x 67 in.

I have written more than once in the last few years that Hans Hofmann's paintings were nothing if not instructional. One could say the same of Ohlson. An artist who spent a good chunk of his life teaching at Hunter College in Queens, New York; Ohlson, like Hofmann, shows us how it is done. In no uncertain terms. Great force. With great passion.

Untitled, 1987, acrylic on canvas, 62 x 60 in.

Some of us are born in the wrong place, and we have to find our way to the right place. I have made this point often to explain how one must overcome being born a swan among ducks, or viceversa. Future farmers get born in the city; future ballerinas get born on farms. Ohlson was born on a farm, son of a farmer. Iowa. During the depression. Getting to the New York art world can't have been easy. Which isn't to say that there was no farmer left in him. His paintings have a certain sturdiness beneath their eloquent color, a bruised and hard-fought fist, a fierce no foolishness work ethic about them. Fields plowed until the sun goes down. Rows of corn as far as the eyes can see.

Night Watchman, 1987, acrylic on canvas, 62 x 60 in.

Much is made of the Rothko influence and that is evident in the work. Ohlson also studied with and worked for Tony Smith, and there is something of that as well. But color is so much of what Ohlson is about. Color space, color dialogue and interaction, color poetry, and color character. And for this I think of Hofmann again. Hofmann more than Albers. For while there is nothing of Hofmann's craziness, there is the conversation across space between blocks of color that is so highly tuned, thoughtful, even heartrending, and frankly, exceptional. The results are unmistakable. We know what we are experiencing. Color. Cut and dried. Color, with Hofmann's push and pull. Color, that knocks you on your ass!

German Town Red, 1984, acrylic on canvas, 62 x 60 1/8 in.

Ohlson died in 2010 at the age of 73. He left a prolific body of work that spanned decades, the 60s to the 2000s, and is dumbfoundingly if not stubbornly consistent, like some hard-edged Morandi, across time. Like a straight, midwestern highway, across space. It comes down to the way he stands his ground. The way he imposes his will on a painting, which imposes its will on the viewer. Again, nothing less than formidable.

The Washburn Gallery is putting Doug Ohlson on our radar once again, and asking us to take a another good look at someone so many of us might have missed. Joan Washburn does this as well or better than anyone. Asking us to see what she sees. To prize what she prizes. To discover what she has discovered. The Washburn Gallery is making a case for his relevancy; they are making a case for elevating his  place in art history from a successful, well-respected painter to someone celebrated in the larger context, to someone whose bold, elegant, hard-edge abstractions continue to earn him a voice in the conversation.

Addison Parks,
Spring Hill, February 2016

Doug Ohlson

Paintings from the 1980s
February 4 - April 2, 2016

Washburn Gallery
20 West 57th Street
New York, New York 10019
T (212) 397-6780 F (212) 397-4853

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Welcome To Painting; Welcome To Everything

Joan Snyder, LIFE OF A TREE  2007, oil,
acrylic, cloth, berries, papier-mâché, glitter, nails, pastel, on linen

People say a lot of things. People think a lot of things. As a painter you may feel pretty good, maybe things are flowing, maybe things are going your way, but just like that, a painting can bring you to your knees. Just like that a painting can take you right back to the beginning, right back to feeling like a beginner, right back to feeling clueless.

This is especially true if you get stuck on a painting. Maybe you have some expectations. Maybe you have dug yourself a hole. Maybe those go together. Maybe you had an idea that just won't ever fly, and you're too stubborn to admit it, scrap it, or change direction, or go back. You think something is on the other side of this impasse. That you can turn this no into a yes. After all, you've been here a million times before and you have made it to the other side and have done some of your best work as a result. But maybe this time is different. Maybe this time is really a flop. Maybe you don't have what it takes anymore or you have just bitten off more than you can chew. You despair. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.

John Walker, Study for Coastal Cross II, 2011,  oil on canvas  121.9 x 91.4cm 

So for all your success, recognition, adulation, talent, skill, sales, experience, fame, background, pedigree, track record, desire, ambition, brilliance, genius, whathaveyou, you are beaten, broken, a baby, a wreck, crazy, a lost soul. A painting can do that. It can fill you to the brim with doubt. Any painter worth his salt, that has taken great risks, gone out on countless limbs, and found themselves all of a sudden in unfamiliar territory, has experienced this time and again. Some painters dare to go there everyday, unstoppable, and they still get frustrated, somehow finding themselves going in circles, repeating themselves, back at the beginning, back in familiar territory. They look down and realize that not only are those footprints that they see are theirs, but that there are zillions of them, that they have been through here many, many times.

In the back of your mind you tell yourself not to panic. Something always comes of it. You will have a breakthrough. But there is still that nagging doubt. Maybe you're done. Maybe this is the end of the road. Maybe you don't have it anymore. Maybe you never did. Maybe this has all been a charade. What made you think that you could do this. What made you think that it meant something. Maybe it is not your turn. Maybe you are just one more wreck on the side of the road to success. Maybe you are being fitted for a place in the seventh circle of hell. Maybe you just missed the boat. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.

Bill Jensen, With Color XXIV, 2009.
Egg and oil tempera on paper,
20-1/2 x 14-3/4 inches. 

They say that when you find yourself in a hole, that you should stop digging. They say, don't stop painting, just paint something else. Let go! But the thing about being a painter is, you can't. That's what makes you a painter. If you could have let go you would of done something else. What? If you could have let go you wouldn't have put yourself through this. If you could have let go you wouldn't have searched for meaning from a tube of paint, in the layers and colors and juxtaposition of form, in the transformation of form, in the reinvention of form, in the metamorphosis of being. You would have just been. But no. Not you. There is a yes there. An epiphany. Somewhere. And you're going to find it. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.

It's ok. Happy painting.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, Feb. '16

Nina Nielsen;VOLGA (2012-2013); 24 x 18 inches;
 oil and sand on canvas

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Maureen Gallace: Revisited

UNTITLED NO 10647C' (1992): Oil on canvas, 18 by 24 in.


THERE is something odd about Maureen Gallace's paintings: They seem simple-minded and visionary at once. It makes them disarming if we bother to look at them.

I say bother because there is a great deal about these small landscapes that just doesn't get bothered with. For example, they show no special consideration toward their medium or craft.

Indeed, they are much more than modest, even puritan. What they do, they do so strangely that we must wonder if we are imagining things.

Looking at only one of her paintings, it would seem almost necessary to dismiss her primitive approach to imagemaking as amateurish and to dismiss any inclinations to endow the work with qualities that are beyond it.

This was my first reaction to the work. Gallace's flat little origami-like barns floating in a sea of undistinguished trees and bushes did almost nothing for me.

They told me nothing about painting or landscape to begin with. But then they went to work, and their filtered, soft, and shadowy light affected me in the most peculiar sort of way: I felt almost lost, as when a storm is coming.

Gallace's work is a wash of light: the gray sea of light and life all around us. The barns in the middle of it all are not what they seem. Like cold- weather barns, they have no openings. Are they light houses? Life boats? Or constructs that act as both?

These little paintings are frightening because they speak of a vastness that is overwhelming to our head-in-the-sand lives. They approach the apocalyptic. They play the role of Cassandra, speaking with a positively shrill quietude.

Oddly enough, they also offer us a kind of hope that comes with every warning, if we listen. This makes them very large and remarkable paintings.

The truth is that there is a kind of questioning and, at the same time, revitalizing of values at play here. These paintings speak of going back to the land, back to simplicity, back to primary experience. Maybe it is not so surprising that this is the work of a New York artist.

Gallace has stripped away the need for big, impressive, and over-produced fortification to compensate for the vulnerability of a single poetic act of human expression. She uses pre-stretched canvasses and a very untutored painting technique - the stuff at anyone's fingertips - and she goes somewhere alone to bring back a little light. It is art for the tender sensibility, a rare find.

Addison Parks July 15, 1993; Courtesty of the Christian Science Monitor