If a collection of seventy photographs, an installation, and a film prove one thing, it’s that Patti Smith rocks much more than one world.
Even before conquering the literary world last year with a National Book Award for her memoir, Just Kids, it was hard to confine Patti Smith to one label. Descriptions of the “poet turned rock ‘n’ roller,” “shamanistic poet, proto-punk-rocker and voice in the wilderness,” “singer and visionary,” “poet, rock star, activist,” “influential poet and musician of the 1970’s”, “godmother of punk” (a big one) or to the New Yorker, simply, “singer and songwriter”, have preceded or followed her name since the launch of her debut album Horses in 1975. But now, with her new exhibition of photographs at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, it is simply impossible to call Patti Smith one thing or the other. She is, simply, an artist.
Bryn McConnell toys with color, line, expression, the canon—both on and off the canvas.
Bryn McConnell’s studio door is decorated with a clean grid of inspirations. One piece of construction paper reads, Everything is an experiment, while Art ‡ Democracy, Kunst ‡ Kultur, ART = Humpty Dumpty, ART = YUMMY YUMMY—the words of the German painter Jonathan Meese—mark a small poster. There are fashion ads and post-its, a magazine tear-out of the choreographer Trisha Brown, and just above the door’s handle a small white paper that says, go too far and get messy. On the right, a long, narrow white desk holds a diet coke can, an iPhone, a desk lamp, a bottle of Advil, clear glasses, a copy of John Richardson’s Life of Picasso, The Cubist Rebel, and the wings of an open magazine. Across the SoHo studio—which can’t be more than 300 square feet—two large canvases of brightly colored figures hang from a low ceiling and dominate the room like a pair of eyes.
Bryn McConnell just had her first solo exhibition at the Frontrunner Gallery in early February.
Titled Looked, the exhibition featured six paintings of iconic women, each of which McConnell made in the last two years. Linear brushstrokes dipped in vivid colors zigzag about in short rhythmic motions, just barely coming together to form the figures and faces that dominate the frame. Five out of six of these paintings were taken from her Re: self-reflection/refraction/reflexion series.
Ingredients for Keating Sherwin’s paintings? Canvas, brushes, paint, and, of course, cooking utensils.
Keating Sherwin paints large, sculptural oil paintings of women. Preferring cooking tools to paintbrushes, Sherwin’s process is one of the most fascinating aspects of her work. She seems to wander in and out of consciousness as she moves around—often hovering on top of her canvas, paint tool in hand. Other times, she sits up close to her paintings, inspecting each detail, completely unmoved.
Sherwin’s work reflects two of her favorite muses: lips and women. Her lip series features frames of lone impasto lips, formed by blends of indigo, violet, blue and pink or yellow against a thick, white, dripping background. The women are darker with softer edges, but thicker lines. These women, often cut off at the hip, seem both feminine and masculine, always confrontational, at times angry and absent. Many of these women have been painted with one, irisless eye. Man in Black features a figure with an almost feminine stance, a dotted eyeball, and a raised middle finger seemingly gesturing towards the viewer.
Sherwin’s handling of thick, impasto globs of oil paint results in a gritty, naturalistic outcome. These strokes (be it brushstrokes or spoon-strokes) dance to the rhythm of her emotional state, and reflect the characteristics of her subjects on the canvas. When I visited her studio in June, Keating Sherwin was been busy preparing for her first solo exhibition—You, Legend, which remains on view at Three Squares Studio—a gallery in West Chelsea that doubles as a hair salon—through the middle of September. The exhibition features a dozen works by Sherwin, all created in 2011 and 2012. The conversation below occurred in two stages, the first of which took place at her studio in downtown Brooklyn, the second of which occurred at the gallery in West Chelsea.