Miguel Martinez, I Knew You Were No Angel
Is there a trend among painters to think of painting itself--the spreading of gooey colored media onto a surface--as unnecessary? I can't tell if I knew You Were no Angel by Miguel Martinez is actually painted or not. But it feels like a painting. (Tellingly, the hand-written list of work provided by the Joanna, which is hosting an exhibit by Ana Villagomez, Dylan Roberts and Miguel Martinez, provides no information about the media of the pieces.)
Maybe painting/not painting is not really an issue for these artists. Many artists working today feel no particular loyalty to a given medium, and given the amazing variety of stuff that one can make things out of, medium doesn't seem like all that important or interesting category. It's just as good to go to Home Depot, Radio Shack and 99¢ Only for art supplies as Texas Art Supply. I am going to assume that the silvery foam around the edge of I Knew You Were No Angel did not come from an art supply store (but who knows?).
Miguel Martinez, Good Girl Gone Bad
But it's important to me to have some idea whether to think of Good Girl Gone Bad as a painting or not. The tradition of painting is so rich, so powerful. It was the primary visual art of the Western world for centuries. So my feeling is to think of these artworks as paintings. Some of them just barely, though.
Miguel Martinez, Same Park, Different Trailer
For example, Same Park, Different Trailer features 10 painting-like objects attached to a garden lattice. They each look like an abstract design on stretched canvas. But when you look closely, you realize that these are pieces of printed fabric wrapped on canvas stretchers. They aren't painted, but they pay homage to painting in their form and appearance. They are in the same trailer park, but in a different trailer. (Painting's got the super-fancy doublewide furthest away from the septic tank.)
Ana Villagomez, Easier For
Ana Villagomez, at least, is usually clear about what she is doing. Easier For is not a painting. Instead, it's a kind of collage. The phrase is meaningless by itself--it seems to have been taken out of the middle of a sentence, perhaps Matthew 19:24: "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The way it's portrayed is like a it of recorded speech repeated so that it becomes rhythm, as in a Steve Reich tape loop piece. The meaning it may have had (or at least implied) gets lost in the course of repetition. If it does refer to Matthew 19:24, it may be a commentary about how this radical message gets softened through repetition.
Ana Villagomez, Arthur Drawings
That said, Villagomez does display a variety of paintings of the cartoon character Arthur, each slightly different (the differences seem to be variations in skill and degrees of finish).
Ana Villagomez, Cat Paw
Of course, if there is anything contemporary art has taught us about painting, it's that you don't have to paint it yourself. Outsourcing in painting is just as legitimate as outsourcing in manufacturing. With Cat's Paw, it seems that Villagomez has (perhaps) outsourced her painting to her cat.
(in front) Dylan Roberts, 3 untitled paintings; (behind them) Ana Villagomez, Large Trash Bag and Medium Trash Bag
Dylan Roberts is the most painterly painter of the group--he doesn't appear to be playing any conceptual games with his paintings (but without knowing his process, one can't be certain). The question I had seeing this arrangement of Villagomez's photographic trash bags on the wall with Robert's paintings hanging in front, was this a function of the Joann's limited space, or was this a deliberate statement about painting vs. non-painting. The paintings have a strong presence, floating in front of the trash bags, their colors are brilliant in contrast to the black and white trash bags. Their placement almost reads like a vote in favor of the continued importance of painting. (This thesis would not work if the paintings were terrible. They are crude and bizarrely colored, but they sneak up on you in the same way Nathan Green's paintings do. Roberts' painting shares some qualities with Green's and Cordy Ryman's.)
Miguel Martinez, What did I say about going into Georgie's room?
Miguel Martinez is the artist who skates the painting/not painting boundary closest. I could claim that that's why I like his work best of the three artists, but to be honest, I think it's because the colors appeal to me most.
Miguel Martinez, Cry Me a River, Tears on My Pillow
Because once you get past thorny concerns of liminality or deskilling, and once you acknowledge that as a viewer, you are little more than a cloud of cultural, psychological and neurological biases, you are left with visual appeal. That's what worked on me at the end. I liked Villagomez and Roberts and especially Martinez because in my eyes, this work looked good.