AO On Site (with Interview): ‘Image Matter’ curated by Klaus Kertess at Mary Boone in Chelsea, February 21, 2009; Interview with artist Carroll Dunham

February 25th, 2009

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Opening night of Image Matters curated by Klaus Kertess at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

Image Matter, an exhibition curated by Klaus Kertess, opened at Mary Boone Gallery’s Chelsea location on Saturday. The show brought together paintings by seven artists who have expanded the plane of the canvas and pushed the limits of painting to the third dimension.  Each artist is represented by a single piece, with most works in the mid-size range around six-feet-tall evenly spaced around the gallery with no wall text, privileging the paintings and their commonalities. The artists in the exhibition are Carroll Dunham, Ralph Humphrey, Elizabeth Murray, Alfonso Ossiorio, Peter Saul, Julian Schnabel, and Joe Zucker.

Image Matter
Curated by Klaus Kertess
February 21, 2009 to March 28, 2009
Mary Boone Gallery

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‘Untitled (Purple)’ by Carroll Dunham via Mary Boone

Kertess, at whose Bykert Gallery Mary Boone got her start in the early 1970s, organized the exhibition to feature, as Carroll Dunham stated to Art Observed, ‘a group of artists whose work he’d really like to see together because he thinks there are connections that might not be that obvious…there’s something to do with a clear, recognizable image and a very physical idea about painting.’ The show formally brings together established artists who have, at least in certain points in their careers, shared a similar approach to incorporating sculptural elements within painting.

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Eunice Golden and Barbara Coleman at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Madeline Warren and Hannah Heinrich at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

Included in the show is one of Julian Schnabel’s controversial plate paintings, ‘St. Francis in Ecstacy.’ Schnabel, the only artist here represented by Mary Boone Gallery, first came to the attention of the contemporary art world after exhibiting a group of these paintings at one of the gallery’s earliest shows in 1979. Critical response was and continues to be quite mixed on how well the artist incorporated the porcelain fragments into his paintings, but the paintings do mark a moment in contemporary art history.

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Daniel Rosenbaum and Brendan Cass at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

The earliest piece in the exhibition is Alfonso Ossorio’s ‘Here and Now,’ which is arguably the most sculptural of all the works. Ossorio called his works ‘Congregations,’ combining paintings on unusually shaped canvases with glass eyes, beads, and driftwood to create active images reminiscent of Mayan religious imagery. Joe Zucker paints a riotous portrait using cotton balls soaked in all different colors of paint. Ralph Humphrey creates minimalist color compositions that pop out in relief.

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‘St. Francis in Ecstacy’ by Julian Schnabel via Mary Boone

AO talked with Dunham about his work and involvement in the exhibition. Dunham’s early works were abstract paintings on plywood, heavily incorporating the grain of the wood into the image. Over time, a vocabulary of bulbous protrusions and phallic projections developed into a hat-wearing character that features prominently in his latest works. In ‘Untitled (Purple)’ (1993-1994), Dunham’s contribution to Image Matter, the arc away from pure abstraction begins to appear with a pair of lip-shaped forms. The incorporation of Styrofoam balls inside a squiggly rectangle shape gives an intestinal appearance to the figure. Dunham was pragmatic about his decision, saying, ‘I just wanted to use balls.’ Although he made a number of these Styrofoam ball paintings in the mid-90s, Dunham has since left behind the kind of sculptural painting highlighted in the exhibition, though he still does have many Styrofoam balls rolling around his studio. A number of the artists are a generation older than Dunham, and when asked if any of these had ever informed his artistic practice Dunham said that he often looked at their work for ‘encouragement’ and cited Ralph Humphrey in particular as someone whose work, as a young artist, he looked to.

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Angel’ by Ralph Humphrey via Mary Boone

A number of the artists are a generation older than Dunham, and when asked if any of these had ever informed his artistic practice Dunham said that he often looked at their work for ‘encouragement’ and has written in exhibition catalogs for Elizabeth Murray and Joe Zucker. He also cited Ralph Humphrey in particular as someone whose work, as a young artist, he looked to.

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Joe Zucker and John Newman at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Sherry Aliberti and Ray Heilman at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Sally and Peter Saul and Fredericka Hunter at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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‘Stuck’ by Peter Saul via Mary Boone

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Curator Klaus Kertess at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Marianne O’Hare and Donald Bracken at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Marika De La Maria and Soledad San Emeteril at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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‘Here and Now’ by Alfonso Ossorio via Mary Boone

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Chie Fueki, Zoe Pettijohn-Schade, and Christopher Schade at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Angela Brazda, Max Falkenstein, and Miciah Hussey at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Debbie Choate, Ramona Floyd, and James Nova at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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The crowd at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Keith Sonnier and Ingrid Dinter at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved

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Roberta Smith and Lena Dunham at the opening of Image Matter at Mary Boone, photo by ArtObserved