Category Archive: Half/Dozen Gallery

Laura Mackin

Time Enough

January 6 – February 19, 2011

Opening Reception January 6th, 6pm-9pm

Time Enough explores a distant relative named Dean and his collection of home movies shot from 1946-2006. After months of sifting through 104 hours of Dean’s footage, Mackin began editing a series of short videos, trying to understand and reason about the materials at hand. Throughout the Dean series, Mackin is attempting to distill life-long phenomena into brief, precise and intense cinematic moments.

In 1962, Dean got a zoom lens. For the video titled Zoom, Mackin chronologically stitched together all footage involving a zoom movement. Shown in fast motion, this piece produces a fast-paced and highly fragmented narrative of Dean’s life from 1962-2006. This is just one example of how Mackin’s work explores how Dean persistently recorded 60 years of his everyday experiences, capturing his entire life cycle.

This project is supported by a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

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Grant Hottle

So Domestic

I know that this painting in particular has its compositional roots in a Delacroix painting.  Can you describe the process you went through by starting with the Delacroix and working through your own painting to produce So Domestic?

There are painters throughout art history that I am in love with, whose paintings I want draped around me at every turn.  These are the people who made me want to make paintings in the first place, and whose work I disappointingly measure my own against.  The work of romantic painters like Gericault and Delacroix, or Caspar David Friederich, are enthralling to me because of the compositional drama they play in.  Structurally, there is so much movement in those pieces.  They are built around triangles and diagonals, so the eye jumps around lustily, landing on clumps of action and building the image piece by piece.  Then you’ve also got the imagery itself, which is both real and fantastical.  Night skies and fire, lustrous objects and satin cloth, huge clouds and rich surfaces everywhere.  What’s not to love?

So for some paintings in this series, I began with a compositional structure based on a painting by a romantic painter as an attempt to come to terms with my passion for their work, to understand it better, and maybe to steal a little of their magic for my own.  So Domestic borrows in this way from Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus. I knew I wanted to paint a bedroom scene and I wanted it to be sexy, covered in surfaces that shined and radiated some of the tension between sex and violence, so I borrowed motifs from Delacroix.  The basic idea of a bed high above the viewer, on a perspectival plane that couldn’t really exist, and then filling the space with objects to jump between came from that.  I did a charcoal study of the painting first, very quick, very blocky – just letting solid shapes stand in for the figures I knew I wouldn’t keep for my painting.  This study is really different from a copy of the painting and bears little resemblance except in its composition and key values.  Then I referenced the study while laying out the underpainting for So Domestic.  I wanted direct influence, twice removed, from Saradanapalus, and the result was that where there was a white horse, there’s a round chair.  A prone figure became a satin cloth draped across the bed, and so on.

The push and pull between appropriate perspective and a flatness in this work seems to represent that aspect of home that is no longer fixed or even a given. But at the same time even the size of this painting is cumbersome and not mobile, implying that it needs a permanent residence.  Can you talk about your use of formal aspects of the work to represent the underlying concept of both embracing and railing against the domestication of home life?

Well, I think you hit on one directly.  The shifting perspective, especially in a painting big enough to inhabit physically, tugs on the ground beneath your feet.  The room is relatively comfortable except for those variable directions implied through perspective.  I wanted there to be a sense of time passing, of multiple points of time rolled into one, and shifts in perspective imply that sense of movement.  Because of our relationship to perspective through photography, we tend to think of perspective as instant and real, and I like playing with that sensibility by breaking its rules frequently.  Of course, that has its roots in Cezanne and the beginnings of modern abstraction, but Delacroix played a similar game as well.

When I give in to my decorative impulses, and render a baroque, shiny, wallpaper pattern, I can’t help but chuckle a bit.  It feels funny because it’s such a bourgeois material throughout history, like in a Boucher painting or something, but now you can buy cheap damask wallpaper at Home Depot.  That kind of pseudo, upwardly mobile decor is something I’m attracted to at the same time I can’t even really afford the cheap stuff.  And it finds its way into my work, into my home, into my head.   Satin sheets and red and gold wallpaper is sexy stuff, but it’s so damned tacky.

Are you not also using traditional painting motifs of including objects that are representational of certain ideas or themes, such as the Vanitas painting done by Northern European still life painters in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries? (something about the pearls on the dresser is begging for interpretation for me)

Sure, and there’s a painterly conceit going on in some of these objects as well.  The surfaces and textures of each thing are challenging and fun to paint.  I don’t think I’m moralizing like the vanitas work, but I am aping it a bit.  I mean, when I’m talking about tongue in cheek decorating, a pearl necklace definitely fits into that discussion, right?

Do you fore see the American Dream of owning a home becoming old fashioned or out of date? Will the trajectory of our society begin to lean toward mobility or impermanence? 
What will that mean for art, and the collection of that requires such a security of place or home?

I think its becoming impractical.  If you want to live in a metropolitan area, owning is outrageously expensive and if you lose your job you are completely screwed.  Job security is really different for me than it was for my father, who is retired Oklahoma City fire fighter.  For my dad, stay on the department long enough and earn a pension.  For me, be willing to move to where the job is and hope for the best.  So owning a home just isn’t a milestone for growing up the way it has been for previous generations.  I hope that the work doesn’t just lament this, but also posits some hope in there.  And on that note, I may never own a home, but you can bet I’ll own art my whole life.  In all the moves I’ve made in the past decade the art I’ve collected is what remains constant.  Its what makes an apartment a home.

Interview by Nelleke Mack

Grant Hottle

So Majestic

So Majestic has a feeling of other worldliness, or fantasy. Is this a real space or an ideal representation of home to you?

The term ‘real’ is so subjective.  I’ve been thinking about this specifically in relation to the home because in moving from place to place, the space I think of as my home bleeds from one structure to the next.  So where is my real home? Is it where I am now or where I am from?  Isn’t it a construction of both?  Complicating the discussion is the fact that the greenhouse in So Domestic only exists in the context of this painting.  It was never a direct observation or photograph of a place you could walk into. It is a construction, but is no less real for being so.

The notion of fantasy is something I’ve been struggling with in my work. It definitely plays a role when the studio becomes a site for experimentation and play, allowing for flights of fancy. I think the sky in this painting is an example of taking a natural phenomenon and letting it run its course as an invention – a memory or an idea of a real sky. Like a child, I still stare at the landscape around me with incredible wonder. At the same time, I’m a little self-conscious about overplaying that hand, and I think the title for the piece tries to reflect that complexity. It kind of makes fun of itself at the same time it attempts seriousness. And at the end of the day, fuck yeah. It’s fantastical.

As you said in your last interview that Cramped Apartment is more closely related to paintings you have been making in the past 3 to 4 years, does that mean that So Majestic is going in a new direction? Do you think you have now changed your art direction from here on?

At the beginning of 2010, I finished a large drawing (Greenhouse) that was the basis for So Majestic, and as soon as it was finished, I knew it would eventually become a painting. That’s really rare for me. Usually when I finish a drawing that isn’t a study, I’m done with the image and the piece exists only on paper. Building the painting altered the composition and objects in the painting to the degree that the two pieces are quite separate, but both the drawing and the painting had the goal of getting the viewer to look up at the great expanse of the world.

This body of work is a natural extension of my 2009 series So Romantic, but in many ways embraces the extremes of that previous work. These pieces are bigger and more ambitious. The saturated palette is more unadulterated, and the shifts in contrast are more abrupt. These paintings are also more taxing to make, but the results are encouraging. I think there is more to explore along these formal avenues, and that will continue in the coming year.

There is no real furniture represented in this piece, only the home’s structure with in the flora’s space. I feel like this painting has more of a relationship to nature than the others, almost as if this home is more a guest in the plants habitat rather than the plants being a fixture in the home. Does this painting have specific ties to the earth and our relationship as human’s living on it?

I think those are all really good observations, and I would agree that there is a kind of environmentalism in this painting. I hope it’s not too preachy though.

Interview by Nelleke Mack

Artur Silva receives the 2010 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship

Since 2004, the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship fund has awarded 30 fellowships totaling $600,000, according to Efroymson Family Fund manager Joanna Nixon. Once a fellow is chosen, he or she receives $20,000 in three installments.

The selection panel is composed of influential artists, curators and administrators from across the country. Without knowing the artists’ names or cities of residence, judges look at four aspects: the quality and skillfulness of the artist’s work; the artist’s creativity and uniqueness; the artist’s commitment to professional growth; and the impact the award would have on the artist’s career.

« Artur Silva’s Artist Page

« Efroymson Family Fund Website


Half/Dozen on KBOO Art Focus

Don’t miss Art Focus with Eva Lake today. She will be talking to Half/Dozen director Tim Mahan about the gallery and to Grant Hottle about his current exhibition at H/D.

KBOO Comunity Radio

Portland 90.7 FM

11:30am September 30th, 2010

Grant Hottle

#1 Cramped Apartment

Can you tell me what historical painting you started with in order to create the composition for this piece?

For the bulk of my work, there isn’t a direct reference to a specific painting.  In the show at Half/Dozen only one painting has its compositional basis in an art historical reference.  That said, I’m highly invested in citing the history of painting as a way to place what I do in the studio in a context bigger than I might otherwise feel.  Cramped Apartment is more closely related to paintings I’ve been making for the past three or four years in its structure.  I wanted it to feel closed in and cluttered like my studio.  (I paint in a converted one car garage)

I know that the title of the show “So Domestic” typifies these ideas of home that are being discussed, can you tell me how Cramped Apartment’s title illustrates the meaning of this piece?

I think this is the kind of space I find myself in most of the time.  My home is full of art, books, tables —  stuff.  It’s lived in.  And the homes of my friends and peers trend that way as well.  Cramped Apartment is a pretty obvious labeling of the space.  One window, a kitchen that looks into another room, a mirror to open up the space.

This painting more than the others have representations of objects that are not recognizable, geometric shapes represented in perspective, why is that? do they represent actual objects in your space that you abstracted?

Even when objects are recognizable in my work, they function for me more as abstract shapes.  That’s not to say that a TV as an image has no meaning, but it’s more likely placed in a work to perform a formal task.  I needed something glowing and green, so it becomes a TV.  So when there’s a flat rectangle leaning against a wall, or a patterned geometric form curling into the next room, I stop short at naming them.  They do a job that would be similar if they were more ‘finished’ or visually defined.

Your color palate is so bright and not reminiscent of classical works you may be drawing from, is that an effort to divorce your self from their influence? or referencing more modern influences?

Well, first of all, painters from Giotto forward have used some pretty insane colors.  Look at the reflection in Vermeer’s Young Woman with Water Pitcher and tell me that blue isn’t intense.  Or Titian’s Bacchanal.  But a lot of my color sensibilities come from modern abstraction – I’m floored by the optics of color laid out by Albers in Interaction of Color.  I usually lay out my palette in a fairly straightforward progression from cools to warms to cools again, so that I can jump between temperatures within individual hues. 
Aside from academic art history, I’m a lifelong comic book fan, so saturated color may be built into the way I visualize.  Plus paint is colored goop, after all.  Seems logical that paintings should show that off.

Interview by Nell Mack

Grant Hottle

So Domestic

November 4 – December 18, 2010

Opening Reception November 4th, 6pm-9pm

So Domestic is a slice of a broad body of paintings and drawings that explore the shifting and ambivalent nature of the home.

Both embracing and railing against the domestication of home life, this work struggles to find permanent residence. The American dream of owning a home is now an unlikely luxury for the working class; we rent instead of own, and speak of mobility as an asset and permanence as an anchor. Hottle presents the personal, romantic notion of a place beside its disheveled and bending reality, moving between the romantic and the mundane without deliberation.

Hottle’s work is part of a group of contemporary painters who are aiming to combine formal elements of modernism – color sensibilities, attention to surface and flatness, treating paintings as objects – with the technical and compositional structure of classical painting.  The work brings a sense of majesty and grandiosity to the contemporary, everyday world.

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Lisa Kowalski

Into the Brilliance

September 2 – October 23, 2010

Opening Reception September 2nd, 6pm – 9pm

Half/Dozen is pleased to present Into the Brilliance by artist Lisa Kowalski. This new body of work explodes with bold colors and an intuitive sense of tension and composition. The large and small scale wet-on-wet oil paintings signal back to the Abstract Expressionism of the 40s-50s with gestural abstractions and uncalculated marks.

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