There is plenty of pressure to compete in the art world triathlon that takes place year round. Hamptons to Hudson, Miami to Marfa and back to New York, the peripatetic art world has many places to be between the Basel Basel solstice and the Miami Basel black out. Maybe, if you spend your summer in the Catskills or up the Hudson River, you got out of your adirondack chair, got in the car and drove to Bard to see Amy Sillman’s excellent show. Maybe you Zipcared and AirBnB’ed your way up to Red Hook (the other one). Maybe you went and saw One Lump or Two in Boston at the ICA. If you didn’t do these things, please consider this your last warning: It closes September 21st. I think it would be an error to miss one of the best museum presentations of a contemporary painter in recent years.
At Bard, Sillman is given the room to spread out and install a chronological show as well as to curate the show Score! (from the museum’s permanent collection). Throughout One Lump or Two there are bold, bulging, muscle bound abstractions. In some places you see Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park, in others Dunham’s flesh and wood. I found myself shifting my stance while taking in a lopsided form or cocking my head to make out the lumps. The show begins with a smaller yellow painting from 2001 as well as a large scale recent work. The pairing prepares you to dance and involve yourself with the work, no matter the size.
Small iterative drawings show the artist plotting possible painting trajectories. They read as potential stills for her animation projects and in some instances are just that. Portraits quietly appear, sweet and touching (in one instance all the subjects are couples touching) but always somewhat off kilter. The content of the work here is personal and decidedly different than the abstraction that I was taught to revere. Sometimes chronology is circumvented for content. PS, an iPad animation from 2012 is in a room with paintings from the 90’s. In many ways PS offers just that, a postscript that reminds us that a mid-career retrospective is a show where the artist gets a say. As a painter and illustrator, Sillman experiments publicly with her technique using digital drawings and animation.
If you are one of those nomadic art lovers, Sillman has a few thoughts about your kind. In the beginning or end, depending on which direction you turn when you enter the show, some fun is had at the art world’s expense. Seating charts for art events describe people by their foibles and outright flaws but not by name. Neurotic artists and flush collectors rub elbows. Sillman lampoons their attributes and false compliments with hand scribbled charts and spreadsheets. There is no clear resolution and no easy answer, but there is a wink and a nod. Amy Sillman is still making and excavating her own practice. It is a joy to watch.
– Jeff Bergman September 2014