Hero: The Paintings of Robert Bissell

‘Animals are good for thinking’ Claude Lévi-Strauss

Review by Grady Harp

First and foremost, Robert Bissell is a very fine contemporary painter, a fact that may go unobserved due to the immediate emotional impact of his majestic paintings of animals in magical, at times surreal, yet always warmly heartwarming stories in paint. Yet the word ‘fine’ here applies to his technical gifts – the way he handles paint, the intuitive correctness of his compositional concepts, the ever-engaging of the viewer’s imagination of tracing that fine line between praise of the animal kingdom and anthropomorphism. Some may glance at the cover of this new, beautifully designed and published monograph and sense that it is about illustration, about a book for children – and yes, it is that, if ‘children’ applies to the childlike wonder in each of us hopefully not completely bruised by the contemporary realities of the world. But it is much more. Continue reading

The Female Gaze

A long overdue major museum exhibition of art by women

Review by Grady Harp

There are several approaches to evaluating this very well designed, well written, well documented, extravagantly illustrated book that serves as a catalogue for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts exhibition of art by women. Some will shout ‘Bravo! – it is about time women artists were honored in such a manner, others will say that other museums in this country and in Europe have already curated such an exhibition, others will say that too many important artists were not included, and still others would say that presenting the art by women artists makes them appear as a subgroup of real art – that women and men together in an exhibition that perhaps honors women’s role in the arts would be more dignified. And each stance deserves respect and credibility. Continue reading

A Moment

‘The photographs in this book portray a moment.’

Review by Grady Harp

And to continue this brief statement by Michael Somoroff, ‘They were never intended for publication. They are very personal; a kind of journal that looks back on my beginnings and other’s endings. They were taken innocently, when I was an apprentice in the truest sense, without an agenda. There was never a book or a project in mind. As a matter of fact, this body of pictures lay mostly forgotten for what is now the better part of thirty-five years. These images were a labor of love, an homage to my teachers, friends, and mentors. And, they are my roots, roots that are firmly grounded in the history of photography; that is MY history. In a sense, they are a confession, an opening up of what matters to me most….Beyond words, they are landmarks in eternity, the passing of an era, and the passage of my life. They are very intimate. To be clear, first and foremost…I am a photographer.’ (page 81) Continue reading

Michael Borremans: Weight

Expect the Unexpected

Review by Grady Harp

Michaël Borremans has said, “I use clichés and other elements that are part of a collective consciousness my work would be perfect on biscuit tins.” He creates absurd and sometimes ominous paintings. “Horse Hunting” (2005), for example, depicts, in a muddy palette, a pale and moody-looking man in a suit jacket and crisp white shirt shoving two twigs up his nose. He stares straight at us, and the wall behind him is filled with his shadow. At the 2006 Berlin Biennale, Borremans showed a film on a small LCD screen, which he had framed like a painting. The piece was based on a 2002 drawing of a girl, which he reproduced in three dimensions, so that the girl slowly spins around. That idea he transformed into separate paintings that are included in this catalogue, fine representations of a show by the name of WEIGHT that at De Appel in Amsterdam. Whatever the medium, Borremans’ work bears this trademark sense of absurdity verging on menace. Continue reading