The Easel

Archives: Studio International

24th November 2020

Dana Schutz: Shadow of a Cloud Moving Slowly

Schutz was embroiled in a fierce 2017 controversy over her painting of the black victim of racial violence. That experience seems not to have hindered her art. New paintings portray grotesque “uglies” in lurid colour, some engaged in frenzied action. These are works that provide information but seem to want the viewer to “finish the painting”. To summarise this complex work, the reviewer clutches at a phrase – “grotesque realism”.

Toulouse-Lautrec and the Masters of Montmartre

Posters perfectly suited an urbanizing Paris with its cabaret entertainments and new department stores. Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec were but two artists to see an opportunity for cash and public exposure. However, the explosive growth of posters was due to more than a few exceptional artists. They were seen as democratic, an expression of street culture, art of “the best kind, mixed in with life, art without any bluffing or boasting”.

17th November 2020

The Case for Embracing Uncertainty in Art

The American artist Ed Ruscha memorably said that good art makes us go “Huh? Wow”, while bad art makes us say “Wow, Huh?” Uncertainty, in other words, is an inherent part of looking at art. There is no definitive truth about an artwork, because “truth” varies from individual to individual. Great art “rewards different interpretations as the world changes around it”.

Rashid Johnson: Waves

The complexity of Johnson’s collages and mosaics has led some to accuse him of being “opaque”. His new show has a pandemic vibe with its “smeary, staring faces”, painted in “anxious red”. Are these the faces of people looking for an escape? Or are they our screen-obsessed selves “as we binge-watch our way through a global pandemic? … if there is any greater, deeper meaning in the work, I find myself too distracted by all the superficial, extraneous detail to see it.”