How One Artist Uses Wallpaper to Talk About Beauty, Architectural Digest

Posted 08/15/19


Sara Cwynar doesn’t make decoration, but she deftly nods to interior design in her first East Coast solo exhibition, now open at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The Vancouver-born artist—a trained photographer and former designer for the New York Times Magazine— explores trends, commercialism, and the amorphous and ever-changing ideals of beauty. Titled “Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age,” the varied presentation features photographs, film, and a site-specific wallpaper making its first appearance Stateside. The show will be open through Sunday, November 10.

Cwynar’s wallpaper toys with the idea of art as decoration. Sheathing a corner gallery wall, the wallpaper entitled 72 Pictures of Modern Paintings immediately captivates. This expansive decorative work, a first for the artist, is a compilation of famous modern paintings that she digitally manipulated to blend into an almost unrecognizable pattern that’s eerily ornamental until one recognizes a face, or perhaps arm, tucked into the dusty pinks and blues. Sure enough, fragments of 72 works by the likes of Lichtenstein, Picasso, Pollock, and more live amid the chaos. “l wanted to take these art objects that have been given a place of great importance in our culture, mash them together, and turn them into this big decoration to see and whether they’re just beautiful, and whether that makes them valueless,” Cwynar explains. “I think there’s still great value in just being beautiful, but the wallpaper kind of foregrounds the aesthetic components of modern art.” This inquiry is a substantial one: When even the most known artworks can so easily become purely ornamental, what inherently sets a meaningful work apart? Photo: Jason Mandella.

Cwynar investigates the thinness and flexibility of this barrier. Surely these pieces possess artistic value, but why? Viewers are challenged to grapple with this intelligently, as Cwynar smartly avoids the cheekiness that might prompt visceral reactions.

In part, she chose wallpaper as her design medium because even in today’s furniture-as-art moment, wall coverings retain their function as backdrops. Additionally, they remain embedded with associations of a bygone era. Photos of heavily chintzed and wallpapered rooms pass across the desks of designers (and AD editors) often, but such rich interiors are neither mass-market nor the look du jour. “I thought a wallpaper really made sense in this context as a classic bourgeois decorative thing,” she explains. Even today, silk wall coverings or hand-painted wallpapers are markers of luxury. Plus, Cwynar adds, “you don’t see many experimental wallpapers.”

To create the pattern, Cwynar began at the bookshelf, scouring encyclopedias. She picked out the most well-known modern paintings, scanned these reproductions into her computer—stains, spots, and all— and then digitally toyed with the scans in Photoshop. “One thing that’s important to the wallpaper is that you can see the printing dots and textures of the reproductions, so it’s not even about the actual artwork anymore,” Cwynar says. After this digital rearranging, patterns emerged. Trends in the shapes, aesthetics, and depictions of women’s bodies rise to the top of Cwynar’s optics (no doubt due to the era’s most celebrated artists being male).

Though she thinks deeply about trends, Cwynar is not prone to following them in her artistic practice. Citing rose gold accessories and sweatpants as examples, Cwynar investigates the cyclical return of trends, and whether participation in them detracts from the meaning of one’s work—or if it’s inevitable.

Who can ever be safe from such influence? The artists in 72 Pictures likely didn’t follow trends consciously, yet their practices bred trends within the global modern art movement. Like decorators who scour archives and museums professionally for inspiration, this isn’t due to a lack of individual perspective as much as proximity and resourcefulness; we are never islands.

When asked if dismantling some of the world’s best-known works was sentimental, Cwynar notes that most viewers interact with reproductions of these pieces already. Andy Warhol’s soup cans, for example, are less likely to be encountered in the flesh than on a stranger’s canvas tote. Ditto a Mondrian composition and a color-block mug at the Met’s gift shop. “It’s about how art gets commodified and recycled into things that can be sold [or] literally placed on something to make it seem like it has a value or an aura,” she says.

“That’s something I think about a lot in my work—how things are changed in meaning and in value after they are touched and understood by other people,” Cwynar adds. “And that’s what trends are too.”


‘Weather Report’ exhibit at The Aldrich goes beyond clouds and rain, The Ridgefield Press

Posted 10/24/19


From gray and stormy skies to a sunny day with pillowy clouds, many landscape paintings have historically depicted weather as a central element. Given the complexities of depicting the vagaries of weather, it almost seems unfair to label them as mere landscapes. A diverse selection of art ranging from drawings and paintings to sculptures, videos and installations — all featuring weather as the thematic subject — is on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum through March 29.

While photography and paintings have long been the dominant medium for depicting weather in the visual arts, technology is increasingly allowing artists to utilize a wider variety of media to explore weather and atmospheric effects in their artworks.

In presenting the “Weather Report” exhibition, the Aldrich wanted to present a wide sampling of international artists who reference weather in striking ways. This task is all the more impressive given the ephemeral nature of weather and the challenges artists faced in depicting clouds, rain, wind, temperature extremes and seasonality. Some artists used weather as a metaphor for war, politics, history or surveyed the effects of weather such as climate change and the relationship between man and weather.

“My primary goals were to open the viewer’s eyes to how beautiful and complicated the earth’s weather is and the fascinating and unexpected ways that artists have interpreted various aspects of the atmosphere — what is certainly the most remarkable aspect of our planet,” said Richard Klein, the museum’s exhibitions director, of his task to curate the exhibition.
The artworks span decades from Nick Cave’s “Tondo,” 2018, which uses mapping of catastrophic weather movements as a metaphor for violence in urban America to Nancy Graves’ 1974 untitled work (Heat Density Map of a Cyclone). Graves was one of the earliest artists to use satellite imagery as a source for interpreting weather. Among sculptures on view is “Storm Prototype,” a 2007 series of sculptures that Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle created to represent models of super cell thunderstorm clouds.

Klein said technology has afforded artists new methods of exploring weather through art.

“Technology, particularly satellite imagery computer modeling, and Doppler radar, have provided insight into the earth’s weather that could not of been gleaned from the human eye alone,” he said. “Artists in the exhibition use technology such as photography, computer animation, data capture, and chemistry to expand how art can reflect on weather phenomenon. It’s not just technology — science is also a huge influence on many of the artists in the exhibition.”

Asked about the challenges of capturing the ephemerality of weather in art, artist Colin McMullan said, “The style of art I often do is very ephemeral as well so the content is fitting in that sense. I would say the biggest challenge is also the biggest advantage depending on your perspective: no two experiences of weather are alike, it’s utterly subjective. I feel inspired by that very nature of it, how fleeting it is, how intangible.” His work in this exhibition is connected to the water cycle; how water flows through trees, reservoirs, and rivers, just as it flows through people, industry, and cultural histories.

“In a sense, all paintings are about atmosphere. Great paintings capture and translate a stranger’s experience into something resembling an intimate familiarity,” said artist Damian Loeb, who is represented in the exhibit with his work, “The Big Dipper.” “The atmosphere of indoor paintings can be about rendering how silence bounces off the walls, the muffled sound of rain against a distant window, and the smell of old fabric and a finished dinner. In nature, the challenge can be painting the sound of crickets, the smell of ionized air, or the sense of rapidly changing pressure, as well as the angry granite grays at the center of cumulonimbus clouds.”

Mats Bigert says the development of meteorology has historically always been connected with military ambitions to gain an upper hand on the battlefield. He and fellow artist Lars Bergstrom have created a series of sculptural works depicting weather maps in 3D form for the exhibit under the collective title: The Weather — a Synoptic Battlefield. “Usually, we look at a weather map as a two-dimensional surface describing how cold and hot fronts revolve around high and low pressure areas but weather is three-dimensional and deserves a sculptural interpretation,” he said. “So we have transformed the meteorological symbols into building parts of which we can assemble different scenarios.”

For information about the exhibit, visit


Easy, breezy, beautiful: Sara Cwynar’s ’Covergirl,’ Document Journal

Posted 10/24/19


In Ancient Egypt, color was considered an essential part of an item or person’s nature—so much so, that the Egyptian word “iwen” was used interchangeably to mean appearance, character, or being. Through the symbolic application of color, they imbued their art, clothing, and jewelry with a deeper layer of meaning that could be interpreted according to the object’s hue. While the evolution of these systems varies among different cultures and time periods, the widespread use of color as nonverbal social code helped cement the legacy of dye and other colorants as one of the most highly valued trade goods in the ancient world.

Canadian-born artist Sara Cwynar investigates the relationship between color, cosmetics, and social capital in her 16mm short film Covergirl (2018). Currently on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the film mixes footage shot within the artist’s studio and in an undisclosed makeup factory, punctuated with shots of flowers, red lips, and dripping colorants. Images accumulate and dissolve, producing a peculiar flattening of signal power; as with her representative works, Cwynar’s expert manipulation of pop culture imagery serves to collapse the distance between cultures old and new, high and low, unfamiliar and cliché.

The focus of Covergirl alternates between the factory floor and studio footage of Cwynar’s friend and longtime muse, Tracy. In a 2018 interview with Aperture, Cwynar remarks that she picked Tracy as a sitter because “she poses kind of ironically, with the knowledge of a history of representations of women in mind.” We watch as she carefully applies lipstick, shifts in glossy red shoes, reclines on the couch like an odalisque. Yet even as she performs the gestures of feminine deference, there is a sense of barely contained subterfuge: her image courts the gaze, while her confrontational glance condemns it.

All the while, the narrator’s voice—a combination of the artist’s plus male and female voice actors—maintains a staccato quality even as it speaks over itself. The auditory overlap mimics the symbolic density of Cwynar’s visual landscape, juxtaposing the aesthetic of consumerism with the contributions of dominant cultural theorists as quotes from Ludwig Wittgenstein, Frantz Fanon, Henri Matisse, David Batchelor, Kathy Peiss, and Susan Stewart comingle with the artist’s wry observations about everything from the ontological perception of color—“the essential thing about private experience is really not that each person experiences her own color, but that nobody knows whether other people have [this or] something else”—to its complicated relationship with social status—“The taste for color costs many sacrifices.”

Before the advent of synthetic dyes, the market value of a color was determined by the difficulty of its production. To harvest Tyrian purple, marine snails were boiled for days in giant vats to produce a single kilo of the famed hue, with thousands of shells and countless hours of labor required to color even the trim of a single garment. This turned purple-dyed textiles into elite status symbols ruled by sumptuary laws, and by the fourth century AD, Tyrian purple was so closely regulated in Rome that the emperor was the only person permitted to wear it.

Though purple came to be seen as a symbol of elite status—it would clothe many a king, noble, priest, and magistrate—the use of color as a class signifier extends far beyond the singular shade. As Philip Ball describes it, “Medieval and Renaissance cultures were virtually color-coded hierarchies. Crimson and scarlet garments were for cardinals, bishops, popes, and monarchs, echoing the ruby-purple of the emperor’s robes in classical Rome. Clothing displaying other rich colors was a mark of wealth; black in particular came to signify the conspicuous consumption of the affluent merchants, who could afford cloth dyed in several expensive dyes until it took on this somber shade.”

The advent of new dyes marked a major transformation in value, and black—notoriously expensive to produce throughout the 16th century—suddenly became accessible to the masses. By the 19th century, it had been adopted as a standard uniform color for service professions, including the shopgirls who staffed retail shop floors, fully entering into the cultural mainstream with the introduction of Chanel’s little black dress in 1926 (in The Atlantic, Shelley Puhak describes how shopgirl style was later co-opted by the upper classes as a symbol of modern ease, bringing the color’s evolving class associations full circle.)

Not limited to the textile trade, the use of color to denote class differences is a common feature of many ancient cosmetic traditions. In 3000 B.C. China, men and women stained their fingernails with substances like gum arabic, gelatin, beeswax, and egg to produce a class-based color code, with only Chou dynasty royals permitted to wear gold and silver (while subsequent royals could wear black or red, the lower classes were, predictably, forbidden from coloring their nails at all.) When pale skin came to be seen as a marker of aristocratic status, white powder and lead paint were used to mimic the look of one who could afford leisure time indoors. In the 18th century, women would bleed themselves to induce a white-ish cast, whereas society women in Elizabethan England took to wearing egg whites on their faces in pursuit of a paler complexion.

Though we may not bathe in milk like Cleopatra, today’s women still manipulate our natural skin tone with chemicals to attain an even, plump, and poreless complexion—which constitutes a class signifier in and of itself, as Amanda Mull described in The Atlantic. Studies show that the average woman uses between nine and 15 personal care products per day, and with the typical product containing anything from 15-50 ingredients, researchers have estimated that with the combined use of cosmetics and perfumes, women place around 515 individual chemicals on their skin each day. The intersection of color and class association is also informed by a racist history that pervades the language of cosmetics advertising. (For example, even the most innocuous moisturizers claim to affect a brighter—and lighter—complexion; meanwhile, skin bleaching products retain a global market despite toxic or unknown safety profiles.)

“Most of our information on makeup comes from a hostile tradition, written by men regarding women,” states Cwynar, over footage of cosmetics being automatically dispensed and packaged on an assembly line. The mechanized production and distribution of makeup products calls to mind the manner in which beauty standards are socially disseminated throughout a culture. Deemed “the noblest of the senses,” the role of vision is especially dominant in Western thought; this makes it easy to forget the brunt of societal forces involved in fostering the desire for beauty, which is in many ways commensurate with other forms of success and social status. As Cwynar puts it, “In order to achieve [that success], whether it be mental, physical, financial, or social, one has to be looked at by everyone with whom one comes into contact.”

Covergirl is part of Sara Cwynar’s exhibition Gilded Age, on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut through November 10th.


N. Dash’s Disintegration, Garage

Posted 10/20/19


The first photograph I saw by N. Dash was in a 2012 exhibition in the Lower East Side. It was an image of bits of disintegrating cloth and, over time, similar images have consistently cropped up in the artist’s practice. Termed “fabric sculptures,” these small, gestural forms are made by the artist’s fingers working pieces of cotton. Colored by dirt, oil, time, and the residue of labor, which are photographed and then silkscreened, the resulting images have become something of an enigma for the artist’s wider practice. What is this object? Just a bit of cloth? Is it refuse, or is it the remains of a special, personal keepsake? I queried the artist and was told it was a piece of white cotton fabric carried with her and constantly touched—a material that has the capacity to imprint information both material and immaterial. In the artist’s latest solo show at Casey Kaplan in New York, her second for the gallery, I viewed an homage that points to something larger than the work itself, to possibly something nonphysical.

Walter Benjamin’s well-known 1939 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” has a quote that correlates fittingly with N. Dash’s work. He begins, “With the close-up, space expands… The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear; it reveals entirely new structural formulations of the subject.” The author alludes to the technology of the camera and its ability to capture and condense the world into a new reality or a “different nature.” This “different nature” has developed and expanded into the current age wherein a proliferation of activity is affecting “actual nature” and resulting in shifts in our climate and tilts in our ecosystemic balance. Benjamin extols, “exploring common place milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera… assure(s) us of an immense and unexpected field of action.”
Certainly, these silkscreened images exist on an unexpected field of action. They are printed on a bed of actual dirt – adobe clay, more specifically. In using adobe, the artist directly engages with the desert landscape of New Mexico, where the artist spends a lot of time in when away from New York. The material engages both the artist and the viewer in a conversation with land conservation, a major component to future ecological and climate stabilization. The adobe is sourced in the desert and applied to wood panels via a trowel used for re-mudding adobe architecture. The porous nature of the clay results in high shrinkage coefficients; it dries, shrinks, puckers and cracks. This reference to desertification aligns with ecological decline and the ability for terrestrial conservation to both provide climate stability and the ground for a healthy planet.

There is something both hard-hitting and soft in how these paintings exist in the world: specific, piercing, and, in the end, empathetic, as seen in a recent solo exhibition at the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart. This reuse and revaluing of things closest to us is was communicated plain as daylight in that show. I would say the work is firmly rooted in recycling: utilizing what is on-hand and producing a carbon footprint lower than most. At a time when all are aware of the current climate issues, N. Dash’s works remind us to slow down and look to nature. They propose an alternative way of experiencing the world––suggesting the subtler things and changes might just be the big thing after all.


Eva LeWitt, Sol LeWitt’s Daughter, on Appreciating Her Influences and Making Her Own Space, Observer

Posted 10/11/19


Experiencing the artist Eva LeWitt’s new installation is a bit like how one would imagine it might feel to walk into a color-field painting. Now on view at the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the colorful, enveloping new work marks the artist’s first ever solo museum presentation.

As a child, Eva LeWitt spent a lot of time hanging around in her father’s studio—a formidable art education, considering she is the offspring of Conceptual pioneer Sol LeWitt. Though some have placed her work in the context of her his, with this show it’s easy to see how the younger LeWitt has carved out a space for herself and her own unique practice in the contemporary art world.

Rather than working with traditional sculptural materials, the artist opts for ones used in everyday objects: plastic, latex, rubber and polyurethane. Their malleable, lightweight qualities are easily-manipulated to fill the spaces in which she is intervening. Senior curator at the Aldrich, Amy Smith-Stewart was taken with LeWitt’s work for this reason, drawing a parallel with the work of Eva Hesse, as they both share a “kinship with minimalism” and something of a sensual quality.

Smith-Stewart says when she first came across LeWitt’s installation at Frieze in 2017 the term “eccentric abstraction” came to mind, a description first used by the art critic Lucy Lippard to describe the work of Eva Hesse. Both artists “inserted a softness that animated material in unexpected ways,” Smith-Stewart told Observer, “manipulating and transforming rigid and industrial properties to become more bodily and performative.”At the Aldrich, suspended drapes of colorful, layered mesh line the walls of the gallery harmoniously. Made primarily of mesh, the installation washes onlookers in vivid color, while the screen door-like cross-hatching of the material gives the room a light airiness. Here, LeWitt presents an experimentation with materials by coating it over vinyl and fiberglass. Appropriately, it is entitled Untitled (Mesh A–J), and it’s her largest site-specific installation to date.

Observer spoke to the artist about her process, influences and upbringing.

Tell me about creating this work for the Aldrich.
It’s pretty specific to the space. [The space] has a unique architectural feature they call it “the flying nun,” which is sort of a drop ceiling in the middle that basically leaves a four-foot border around the whole space, and I knew that I wanted to use it as a deep wall to put the work in. I used it as completely free space to make these kind of large scale—I’m thinking of them as drawings—individual sections that together made up a big whole but you could stand in front of one and it would be its own unique piece.

You used to work for Tara Donovan, how has that influenced your work?
She taught me to tackle space in a fearless way. We would show up, with just a small group of assistants, to a big empty room and leave having transformed the space. [Creating site-specific work] seemed less daunting after working for her.

How did you get the idea to use mesh?
I knew I wanted it to be transparent, translucent material, and this material came in a lot of colors. When put together, the [layers of mesh] have an energy, and that’s important to me. I want the work to be active even after I’ve left the space. I want it to have its own electricity.

Why are you drawn to these materials, opposed to traditional sculptural ones like wood and metal?
I generally like soft materials, I like to be able to handle the materials myself—that rules out a lot of metal, wood, and other materials that require a lot of technical expertise. You could be more creative with the way you put them together, develop your own ways of sculpting.

Your work is often been compared to Eva Hesse, has her worked influenced you directly?
Directly is a tricky word. It’s always been there in the back of my mind. Her broken down vulnerable minimalism is kind of, I feel like I relate to just her as a woman making art more than the work itself, though it ends up translating into the work in a very similar way

And she was one of your father’s contemporaries. Were you familiar with her work at an early age?
Yes, I was familiar with her as sort of a mythical figure. She died before I was born so she was always sort of looming large in history.

I read that you used to hang around and make art in your father’s studio as a child, what was this experience like?
He was very generous with his time. He’d always be happy to see me in his studio, now I think that was so nice of him, I must have been so annoying coming into his studio! If someone did that to me I’d be like “please go away” but he was really happy when I was there.

Did you have an awareness of how influential he was?
He was just working most of the time, he didn’t really like to go to his openings. He didn’t like a lot of attention. He just went to the studio every day and came home every night, it was sort of mundane.

What is your process like, is it more intuitive or methodically planned?
It’s a little bit a both I think the ideas come to me intuitively but there’s a lot of planning to translate them from my head to the space.

What sorts of things are inspiring you lately?
That’s a tough one. I keep my interests pretty separate. I like crime fiction. I don’t read art criticism or art theory. I like entertainment that has nothing to do with the art world.

Do you listen to anything while you working in your studio?
I like to listen to audiobooks. I listen to them all day long.

What are some recent ones you listened?
I just listened to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee which was really sad and it took me a long time to get through because it was so devastating! I like fiction, ethics, history, biographies.


Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age, ArtReview

Posted 09/18/19


‘The new is already on hand so we don’t even need to wait / But does newness have any mean- ing at all if it brings no new truth in its wake?’ This is one of many handwritten lines of text scrawled across Sara Cwynar’s archival pigment print A Rococo Base (2018), which explores how our immersive (digital) image culture instils and feeds our search for newness – a nearly meaningless term today, with ‘new’ lasting merely minutes. Drawing on the excess of the late-Baroque era, the print depicts a densely layered collage of neon Post-it notes, pictures of fashion sneakers and jewellery, makeup advertisements mixed with three-dimensional makeup tubes, hotel keys, phone cords, perfume bottles, pens, paperclips, pictures of models posed in studio, red roses, slices of artworkby Rubens, Koons and Picasso, and images of ancient sculptures, all against a bright green background. Woven between these references is Cwynar’s handwriting, lines of media theory mixed with her own, such as the observation, ‘Baroque is the closet to our current time, there is stuff everywhere’.

For those familiar with Cwynar’s prints and videos, this work is recognisable for its expres- sion of surplus – visual-verbal sensory overload that captures how the visual language of commercial advertising cultivates an almost nos- talgic desire for an ephemeral newness. Gilded Age brings together a diverse range of her work, including her earliest work, the artist book Kitsch Encyclopedia: A Survey of Universal Knowledge (2014), prints from her ‘Avon Presidential Bust’ (2017) and ‘Plastic Cups’ (2014) series, her wallpaper 72 Pictures of Modern Paintings (2016) and a selection of her films exploring Western beauty standards such as Tracy and Me & Xtina V.2 (both 2019). Her work smartly engages in a constant loop of signification, images of images that convey the referent-less nature of internet culture; it is not the thing itself that matters, but the image of the thing.

For an artist whose work is rooted in interrogations of digital desire, Cwynar’s process is surprisingly analogue. She prints out enlarge- ments of her source images or her own studio photographs, lays them on the floor and places objects and other printed images on top, writing directly on these surfaces as she goes. She then photographs these physical collages, sometimes with several rounds of rephotographing and printing. Sometimes she enacts a similar process using a magnetic board – the evidence of which in which metal corner magnets cast shadows across the added images.

Cwynar is often visible in her films, moving in and out of the frame, rearranging props and people. Me and Christina (2019) depicts a photo- shoot with Christina Aguilera lounging in a classic odalisque pose against a green drop cloth. Playing in the same loop of short videos is Me
& Xtina V.2, a split-screen video that includes excerpts from Me and Christina alongside a video of Cwynar behind the camera. While Me and Christina is over 18 minutes long, V.2 is just over a minute. And while it may appear at first that we are getting a look behind the Aguilera shoot, Cwynar stands by a red curtain, and as the camera angle pans past the curtain, we see Cwynar filming herself in a mirror, a behind-the-scenes of the artist making a video we are not shown.

It creates a sense of authenticity to her work that is in fact at odds with her subjects, and is itself manufactured. Cwynar’s work offers the illusion of seeing behind the curtain only to reinforce the multitude of ways that our increasingly satu- rated and manufactured image culture belies the truthiness of images we continue naively to look is visible in 141 Pictures of Sophie 1, 2, and 3 (2019), in which metal corner magnets cast shadows across the added images.

Cwynar is often visible in her films, moving in and out of the frame, rearranging props and people. Me and Christina (2019) depicts a photo- shoot with Christina Aguilera lounging in a classic odalisque pose against a green drop cloth. Playing in the same loop of short videos is Me
& Xtina V.2, a split-screen video that includes excerpts from Me and Christina alongside a video of Cwynar behind the camera. While Me and Christina is over 18 minutes long, V.2 is just over a minute. And while it may appear at first that we are getting a look behind the Aguilera shoot, Cwynar stands by a red curtain, and as the cam- era angle pans past the curtain, we see Cwynar filming herself in a mirror, a behind-the-scenes of the artist making a video we are not shown.

It creates a sense of authenticity to her work that is in fact at odds with her subjects, and is itself manufactured. Cwynar’s work offers the illusion of seeing behind the curtain only to reinforce the multitude of ways that our increasingly satu- rated and manufactured image culture belies the truthiness of images we continue naively to look for.


Artsy Vanguard 2019, Genesis Belanger

Posted 09/16/19


Genesis Belanger charmed the New York art world in the fall of 2017 with her small-but-mighty show of otherworldly ceramic foodstuffs, cigarettes, and fingers at Mrs. Gallery. Her ceramics—with lush pastel hues, matte surfaces, trompe l’oeil aesthetics, and finely hewn details—transcend the typical clay-and-glaze constructions we expect from the medium.

Recently, these enticing sculptures earned the artist a presentation in the New Museum’s storefront window and representation by three esteemed galleries: Perrotin, Rodolphe Janssen, and François Ghebaly. Plus, she’ll have a solo show at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2020.

New Museum curator Margot Norton remarked on Belanger’s ability to “cull the uncanny from the everyday, while walking a striking balance between seduction and disquiet.” In a recent show with Emily Mae Smith at Perrotin’s Lower East Side gallery, a bouquet of flowers perched on a chaise lounge turned from lovely to eerie upon close inspection—three pairs of pure white fingers protruded from clusters of bubblegum-pink blossoms.

While tackling “pertinent subjects such as mass production, chemical dependency, and the absurdity of the patriarchy,” Norton noted, Belanger draws upon the art-historical traditions of Pop art, Surrealism, and 17th-century Dutch vanitas paintings. She also captivates us with nods to contemporary American culture—“particularly,” Norton added, “those that we consume to overcome daily stresses, yet also trap us in a liminal state, such as fast-food items, pill packets, liquor bottles, and cigarettes.”


Don’t Miss These Art Shows and Events This Fall, The New York Times

Posted 09/12/19


Elegant architectural whimsies in a young artist’s solo museum debut. Oct. 6-Apr. 5; Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Conn.,


Sculptor Eva LeWitt on Growing Up With a Famous Artist Father and Finding Her Own Voice, Artnet

Posted 09/12/19


The walls of Eva LeWitt’s studio are lined with sheets of graph paper. Most have seemingly random numbers and letters printed across them, like a secret code. In fact, they’re instructions—a way of plotting out patterns that will eventually manifest themselves in one of the artist’s post-minimalist sculptures, which she creates from commonplace materials like latex, vinyl, and acetate.

If the words “artist” and “instructions” bring anyone in particular to mind, it’s almost certainly Sol LeWitt, the pioneering late minimalist and conceptual artist who also happens to be Eva LeWitt’s father. But a penchant for preparing art projects with strict internal logic is one of the only similarities between the practice of the older artist and his daughter, who has carved out an impressive career of her own in a relatively short time.

Where Sol LeWitt’s work is all about divorcing the image from the hand of the artist, Eva’s is about using her own touch to transform mass-produced materials into delightful tableaux—turning commercial plastic, for example, into a theatrical curtain that looks straight out of a storybook.

“I wanted to get away from the meaning of the manufactured, to transform it into something that you wouldn’t have those associations with,” LeWitt says. She’s sitting at a long table in her railroad-style studio on the Lower East Side. The space, located on the ground floor of a building her family has owned for decades, used to house an accordion store called The Main Squeeze. Her father’s longtime studio on Hester Street is just around the corner.

Fish tank-colored plexiglass and sheets of colored mesh—the kind that you might find on a screen door or a pull down window shadow—are splayed out before her, clamped together with drying glue. This is one of the dozen or so hanging scenes that will make up Untitled (Mesh A–J), her new site-specific installation that opens next month at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The installation, a series of hanging swaths of layered mesh, will line the walls of the museum’s nave-like Leir Gallery, a space with 16-foot-high ceilings.

The Aldrich exhibition marks both LeWitt’s second museum outing and solo exhibition to date—an impressive resume for an artist, especially one who just turned 34 this week. Indeed, LeWitt looks young—even younger than she is—though she is an old soul. She complains about the lineup on the local classical music station and says things like, “I never learned computers. One day I’ll have to find a youngster that can do it for me.” Perhaps in part because she grew up in the art world, LeWitt has the air of a veteran who has been around the block.

This attitude translates to her art as well. Her approach is not particularly trendy: work that incorporates the human figure or homespun materials like ceramic and textile is far more in vogue than minimalism-inspired sculpture. But LeWitt’s art aims to make minimalism feel vibrant and urgent.

LeWitt was born in Spoleto, Italy, in 1985 (her father moved to the small European town in the early ’80s to get away from New York) and spent much of her early life between there, Chester, Connecticut, and downtown Manhattan. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be an artist and would often hang around her father’s studio.

A Childhood Surrounded by Art

“I think he was a really great teacher in his own way,” she says. “He would give me all his old scrap paper and old paints to work with. I would just use what was around.”

It wasn’t until she got to college at Bard and started working with artist Judy Pfaff, she explains, that she realized she could use any material she wanted to say what she wanted to say. She began identifying exclusively as a sculptor, even though her work can take a number of forms.
After graduation, LeWitt worked as an assistant to artist Tom Sachs for four years. Then she went to work for Tara Donavan, whom she assisted for eight more, doing “a little bit of everything” and traveling around the world to mount exhibitions. Donavan was particularly instructive as a mentor.

“She’s a small woman, but she has never been intimidated by space,” LeWitt says. “She has so much confidence in her forms and her materials, their ability to hold a room on their own. I learned from her how to look at space like that—without fear, just excitement.”

During her time as an assistant, LeWitt was constantly making art, albeit on a small scale. She participated in group shows here and there and focused much of her energy on churning out what she calls “drawings”—three-dimensional sketches with sculptural elements.

In 2017, after coming across an installation by LeWitt at a group show in London, Esperanza Rosales of the Olso, Norway-based gallery VI, VII, reached out and asked to see more of her work. LeWitt sent along a few drawings and the gallerist was impressed. She surprised LeWitt when she proposed mounting a solo presentation of her work at the high-profile Frieze New York fair that spring.

It was a considerable leap of faith for the dealer. “She hadn’t even seen the work in person,” LeWitt recalls. “She didn’t really know what I was doing.”

The artist showed up with a handful of large new sculptures including a hanging, curtain-like installation of latex and clay. None looked anything like the sketches she had previously shared.

Fortunately, the booth was a smashing success. It led to a prominent group show at Joan gallery in LA, an invitation to create a site-specific installation at the Jewish Museum in New York, and, eventually, the upcoming Aldrich show.
Unlike her father, who outsourced the execution of his work to others, LeWitt defines her art in part by the fact that everything she makes can be manipulated by hand, without the need for a fabricator or even an assistant. Though minimal in appearance, LeWitt’s works are not capital-M minimalism; they eschew the kind of large-scale, polished sculpture of older male artists like Donald Judd or Carl Andre in favor of a subtler, more welcoming spatial intervention—like DIY, home-improvement-store minimalism.

A New Approach to an Old Form

It was this dialogue between her work and those macho minimalists that caught the eye of Amy Smith-Stewart, who organized the Aldrich show after spotting the work at Frieze New York in 2017. “Eva finds softness in the spaces she inhabits,” Smith-Stewart says. “She rounds the curves.”

The curator says the work reminds her of artists like Eva Hesse, whose sculpture evokes the body and “shares a kinship with minimalism, but there’s definitely a transformative quality happening within the more commercial or industrial materials she’s choosing, and a sensuality that comes out of that.”

Unlike many artists responding to this particular thread of art history, however, LeWitt saw it all developing in real-time. “This is a young artist who actually was around all these major artists who were testing the boundaries of what a sculpture or a drawing could be,” Smith-Stewart says. “It had to have had an incredible impact on her own thinking.”
“It was around,” LeWitt says, laughing. “A lot of it was really beautiful to a small child, especially my dad’s work—when I was young it was really colorful. Those were the walls I grew up with, and it was a comfortable, happy place.”

Yet LeWitt contends that she’s never felt burdened by the shadow of her father’s legacy.

“People have really given me my own space to say what I want to say, without comparing our careers or our work,” she says. “Maybe it’s a generational thing. People aren’t so reverential of these male, behemoth artists anymore. There’s a much more nuanced understanding to the history of what everyone was doing at that time.”


In The Studio, Photograph

Posted 09/1/19


Sara Cwynar’s studio is on the third floor of an artist-filled walkup in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. It’s a small space that’s relatively clean and organized, which is a mild surprise given that Cwynar’s pictures often seem like the work of a hoarder.

As she sits down to talk about Gilded Age, on view at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT, through November 10, a big printer nearby lets out a sigh, as if from exhaustion. It makes sense – the artist does a lot of printing, often for an individual piece. Consider, for instance, the recent triptych 141 Pictures of Sophie 1, 2 and 3, 2019. Cwynar took a straightforward photograph of a ubiquitous e-commerce model, printed it out, then layered hundreds of internet-sourced images of that same model on top of it.

This is emblematic of how Cwynar’s photos tend to go: she shoots an image, prints it, then arranges objects on top of the print and re-photographs the composition. Sometimes a single picture is composed of dozens of prints stacked atop one another. Other times it will look like someone laid out the contents of a long-forgotten flea-market bin onto a fashion shoot outtake. It’s a visual language that’s unmistakably her own: eBay bric-a-brac mingles with cheap art postcards and found family photos. Every aspect of the final product – the perspectival trickery, the distorted scale, the attention drawn to the photographic print as object – is a reminder of photography’s artifice.

“One of the great problems that I’m always trying to sort out is how to make what is essentially a pile of garbage look like it’s not a pile of garbage,” says Cwynar, with a self-deprecating smile. “I’ll spend days moving things around to try to get it to be something that has that holistic logic to it. The way photography transforms things is at the core of my work. I find that layer of removal from what the object actually is to be endlessly exciting and satisfying to look at. It allows for combinations of things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.” Like her printer, Cwynar is tired. Having just returned from a monthlong residency in Italy, she’s battling jetlag. This year alone, the 34-year-old artist has mounted four solo shows in three different countries, two at major museums. (In addition to the Aldrich exhibition, she opened a show at the Milwaukee Art Museum in March). She’s also producing a video series for MoMA and has her first monograph coming out with Aperture next year. But that grind is normal for the artist who has, in the nine years since first picking up a proper camera, received her MFA at Yale, been the subject of several institutional exhibitions, and had her work placed in the collections of more than a dozen museums.

Sarah Cwynar, Tracy (Pantyhose), 2017. Courtesy Cooper Cole and Foxy Production

It began when she was fresh out of undergrad at York University in Toronto. She began working as a designer for the New York Times – an experience that helped put into focus some of the larger ideas she had been thinking about, she explains. “It was really fascinating to watch, from inside this big institution, conversations play out about what an image means or how we can visualize something, then put it out into the world and see how differently people would actually react to it.”

Even today, the roots of this idea still inform Cwynar’s work. Take her minimal pictures of flowers, her essayistic films on the beauty industry, or her everything-but-the-kitchen-sink assemblages: with her eye for design and pop-anthropological interest in consumer objects, Cwynar toes the line between critiquing the capitalistic fetishization of things, and enacting that desire herself. “I’ve always wanted to be on the line,” she explains. “I don’t always know if I fall on the right side of it, but that’s interesting to me.”


Your Concise New York Art Guide for Fall 2019, Hyperallergic

Posted 09/1/19


Weather Report

When: October 6, 2019–March 29, 2020
Where: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (258 Main Street, Ridgefield, Connecticut)

A diverse group of international artists grapple with the topic of weather through sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, and video. Weather Report means to show how the subject is connected to climate change, its emotional effects on people, and how and weather impacts history and politics. The exhibition will feature a one-day cross-disciplinary symposium with meteorologists, researchers, and artists.