Jonathan Feldschuh


Shona Macdonald - catalog essay from "Pouring it On"  exhibition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Most of the artists in Pouring it On do just this: apply paint in
loose and generous ways on top of surfaces sturdy enough to
support it. They also paint on. And on. Taking cues from abstract
expressionism, color field, finish-fetish, hard-edge abstractionism,
neo-geo and the like, these artists not only work from this lineage,
they actually work upon it, as if the very layers of paint themselves
embed the lineage that painting has assumed. That the doors of
painting as practice and material are now so widely open is evident
within the range of material processes, canny strategies, and sheer
sensual pleasure presiding over this exhibition.
Matthew Kolodziej’s work germinates from familiar
walks taken in and around Cleveland, Ohio—where he lives
and works—usually from building sites he describes as “places
of transition.” Like an architect or builder, the artist constructs
these paintings in various stages that begin with photographic
records of these meanderings. This photographic documentation
is projected up onto canvases, traced, then systematically worked
until the paintings reach a point of “fullness” – something that is
not predetermined by the artist. The surfaces of his paintings are
embossed the way a foot treading on the ground might leave an
imprint. His paintings draw a link between the impression the
weight of the human body imparts into the ground and the touch
of the hand making a painted mark on the canvas. Raised lines
appear as he pipes by squeezing gel medium out of bags used by
pastry chefs. Into these lines he pours rivulets of paint that puddle
and coalesce. Upon drying, the work is then sanded and repainted,
layers simultaneously revealing and concealing. Initially applied
heavy doses of paint are chipped away at, unearthed, producing
an “archaeology” of painting. The resultant works echo certain
works of George Condo, particularly the busy Cascading Butlers
from 2011 or Black and Red Compression from 2011. Or like a
“geometric” Arshile Gorky, Kolodziej clearly acknowledges the
painting history within which his work is steeped while viscerally
digging out his own path.
Like Kolodziej, Summer Wheat playfully applies paint to
her canvases with tools traditionally used for domestic rather than
artistic tasks. Despite being the only “figurative” artist in the show,
her work comfortably and strategically straddles the objective and
non-objective, a place where many contemporary painters willfully
and successfully stake their claim. On initial viewing, Wheat’s
imagery is wistful and emotive: suggestive of doll’s heads,
children’s drawings. But the ramped-up paint application imparts
an unexpected and urgent physicality to the work; what may
be perceived as endearing is abruptly transformed into mask-
like totemic or haunting symbols. Her earthy palette actually
suggests mid-20th century British painters such as Leon Kossoff
or Frank Auerbach, but her startling, esoteric paint application
makes the work truly her own.
Leslie Wayne doesn’t just pour, she slathers, scrapes,
cuts, peels, shaves, sculpts, rolls. She transforms paint into
wedges, blobs, and strips that are either directly applied to
a surface or made ahead of time, cut out, and adhered, at a
later stage, into wet oil paint. There is an incredible heft to her
work that creates a “geography” or “terrain” of paint. Wayne
describes the physical swathes of material as “the color and
the form becoming one and the same.” In this sense, there is a
purposeful lack of illusion in her work. A self-described “process
painter,” Wayne is less concerned with depictions as she is with
physical, actualized descriptions of organic matter around us,
everything from rock strata to fancily piped icing, from billowing
fabrics to Gaudi’s architecture.
Her work nods toward some of the gestural sweeping
of a Willem de Kooning, Hans Hoffman, or Franz Kline, but as
she says herself, “I have focused on condensing the expansive
arena of heroic painting into a tiny format, forcing a shift between
size and scale, as if the world were on a thimble.” An emphasis
on the sensual, even decorative, properties of paint, evident in
works such as The Mouth that Roared from 2000 and the Touch
of Beatriz from 1999, adds meaning to her work not apparent
in the work of the aforementioned male painters. Terms such
as “patter” and “decoration” can be applied to her work free of
the pejorative meaning associated with them thirty years ago.
Wayne’s work seems to beg of us to be seduced by its physical
presence, unabashed lushness, and beauty.
Upon first viewing of a Tomory Dodge painting, one is
visually arrested by a cascade of brushstrokes. In Mumblecore,
from 2012, Dodge employs some strategies reminiscent of Jasper
Johns’ “chevron” paintings in their vertical symmetry, allover pattern,
and composition. From 2007 until the present
day, Dodge’s work has become increasingly abstract. He has
also added to his repertoire of applying paint. Dodge smartly
and self-consciously embraces the “smorgasbord” that is
contemporary painting. In an interview from the blog, “Painter’s
Table,” he states, “I like the formal tension that comes from
the inclusion of different approaches to painting on one
surface.” These myriad “styles” employed on the same canvas
include: scraping, squeegeeing, wet-into-wet, dry brushing
that resembles airbrushing, layering, pouring, and staining—all
the tropes of 1960’s Modernist abstraction employed to full
force yet freed from the autonomy or purity of form sought by
Clement Greenberg and the painters of the time. Dodge’s work,
such as the 2006 Levitate, a gigantic 84” x 168” canvas, are a
kaleidoscope of vibrant and splintered marks fanning out, falling
down, exploding, and swirling around the picture plane.
Looking at a Josh Smith painting is an emotively
charged experience. There is a restless vitality to the way
Josh Smith’s work challenges the notion of authorship through
diverse imagery and styles. Sometimes intentionally clunky
and raw, other times deft with a quicksilver touch, his work
celebrates the possibilities of making images while highlighting
the seriousness of this pursuit. One work, Untitled, a 30” x
24” oil on canvas from 2011, is a beautiful interplay of red and
green complements, gestural, swirling paint, and lush, loose
surfaces that recalls the German painter, Rainer Fetting’s
1978 Drummers and Guitarists and his 1981 canvas, Ricky
Blau. Smith resists assigning specific narratives by leaving
all of his work untitled. Like most of the painters in the show,
his motivations and interests appear to lie more in the physical
properties and history of painting from which he is able to draw
so voraciously.
Cathy Choi draws attention to her method of pouring
by enabling the lush, glossy paint mixed with latex and glue
to pool and congeal at the bottom edge of the canvas. The
materiality of the process or act of making is made self-
evident. Her choice of resin and glue produces a surface
sheen that cleverly reflects other paintings hanging in the
periphery, as if the paintings themselves were looking around
the gallery. Seeing paintings reflected in other paintings is also
a wry commentary about the self-referential, historicized nature
of painting. These slick surfaces, coupled with Choi’s “candy”
palette recall the “Finish-Fetish” painters of Southern California,
as well as materialism, commerce, and the fabricated forms of
Donald Judd. The artist, however, cites de Kooning and the
Abstract Expressionists as major influences, but lately her work
seems more influenced by the natural world, in particular the
movement and surface of water. Perhaps this is reflected in
her choice of resin and clear-drying glue, which simulates the
transparency and glass-like surface of water. Choi’s process-
driven methodology recalls Wayne’s in this statement: “the
process itself becomes a driving force that flows from within and
becomes an innate response with no predetermined end.”
The recurring splash motif that crops up in many of
Jonathan Feldschuh’s work seems to come directly from the
hand dropping pigment from a huge house-painting brush loaded
with paint. In fact, the image is derived from his research into
various scientific experiments, such as the “Ligament Mediated
Drop Formation,” or the “Mach Wave Radiation from a Jet.”
The latter is described on Feldschuh’s website as being a
“benchtop simulation of a problem in fluid dynamics.” Ironically,
this description of the scientific experiment could actually be
describing the phenomena of paint, particularly the term, “fluid
Feldschuh equates the material interaction in the
scientific image with the painterly pour, gesture, or splash.
Even though they appear to be masculine and gestural, they
are actually driven by material processes found in scientific
phenomena. His work is reminiscent of David Reed’s horizontal,
“flattened” gestural paintings that also called into question
the nature of gesture, albeit in a very different way. On first
glance, other “pouring” painters like Larry Poons or Helen
Frankenthaler come to mind, but Feldschuh works his images by
embedding them in layers of gel medium or outlining the splashes
themselves, producing a slowed-down, less “passionate” or
heroic affect than these earlier Modern painters.

-Shona Macdonald

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