Hommage aux Volontaires Suisses de la Guerre D’espagne, 1986
The Wind Rises
January 21 – February 18, 2023
In Charlie Alston’s studio in Downtown Los Angeles, every available wall and beam has a painting leaning against it. There are so many towering canvases that impromptu rooms have been created in the open studio. Some of the works that are bound together, have only just found their way to each other. With time, their connection has been revealed to themselves. Every canvas is painted independently of one another, but as the paintings evolve, Alston discovers natural conversations between the works. He is open-hearted, always seeking to reach deeper levels of relating with others. For Charlie Alston, life is neither binary, nor homogenous, it’s fractal, integrated, it’s about everything working together, talking and feeling.
Throughout this series he is in conversation with Pop and Abstraction. Pop has been a regular form of discourse in Alston’s paintings as an accessible way to communicate ideas and remove any insecurities viewers might feel when looking at art. Pop, literally meaning “popular,” is a long-storied genre in the United States, where it repurposed and re-contextualized everyday consumer items to engage with popular culture and the broader American audience. Alston engages with a large spectrum of icons from Bird’s Eye, TWA, and Globe to images and ads pulled from LIFE, Ebony Jr. and Jet Magazine. In digging up these icons from the past and repurposing them, he’s able to examine the systems they stand for. Each symbol, each icon, represents a system, a way of being in the world under which groups of people came together and created communities.
In BOARDING PASS, a zoo scene plays out with text from a TWA boarding-pass laid over it. The zoo scene feels so familiar that the name of the cartoon is on the tip of the tongue. But that’s the clever, emotional trick of the work. Because for many viewers, unless you were a regular reader of Ebony Jr. in the 1970s, you likely haven’t read this particular cartoon. In this way, Alston’s references are multivalent, acting as an aesthetic trigger to elicit curious engagement.
In The Wind Rises, two modular-panels sit side by side. To the left, is a sizable abstract painting that blends vibrant tones of blue, yellow, and green, with bold brushstrokes ranging from small and swift to large and expressive, with vigorous splatters. There’s a wit to his lines, a whimsy to his brush. Next to this, sits a slim panel with a replica of an etching of the steamship, the SS Roosevelt – the famous vessel that voyaged in 1908 to discover the North Pole – being battered by windswept waves at sea. While these two panels started out as standalone canvases, they are now circumscribed as a larger entity, like islands in an archipelago. This encounter is an expansion of their individual worlds, an extension of their meaning.
Alston’s abstraction furthers the conversation. He asks you to be uncertain. To listen to the shades. To accept the world as a fundamentally mysterious experience, under and above the forms of intelligibility. He refuses the assumption that you can ever fully understand things, and invites you to walk into the unknown.
In his practice, Alston sees experience as a whole. Employing the styles of Pop and Abstraction in these works, he shows that there’s no hierarchy between the two. What is left is an interdependent relationship. The beaten path and the wilderness as one.
Charlie Alston (b. 1997, San Francisco, CA) received his BFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2019. Recent solo exhibitions include Block Party, Your Body; a North Star in the West at Deli Gallery in New York, NY. He has been featured in group exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ; Twelve Gates Arts Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; and California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. This is the artist’s second solo show with M+B. Alston lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Alice Channer, Mechanoreceptor, Icicles (red, red) (triple spring, triple strip), 2018
Courtesy of the artist and Konrad Fischer Galerie
Photography Lewis Ronald
Exhibition programme 2023
Kunstmuseum Appenzell, Appenzell, Switzerland
Kunstmuseum / Kunsthalle Appenzell, Switzerland, announce their programme for 2023, including solo exhibitions by Alice Channer, Francisco Sierra and Zora Berweger as well as projects in cooperation with the Fondazione Marguerite Arp (Locarno), including works by Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Max Bill and with the Foundation Vordemberge-Gildewart, for whose 2023 Art Award the twelve emerging artists Alfredo Aceto, Natacha Donzé, Marc Norbert Hörler, Maya Hottarek, Jeanne Jacob, Roman Selim Khereddine, Robin Mettler, Martina Morger, Anina Müller, Tina Omayemi Reden, Nina Rieben and Yanik Soland have been nominated.
Blah, Blah, Blah, 2016
Millenium Piece (with Blue Apple), 1999
16.50 x 16.50 in
41.9 x 41.9 cm
Edition of 100
Signed and numbered by the artist on recto.
This print, from Baldessari’s Millennium Piece series, reflects the artist’s deadpan sense of humor and idiosyncratic use of color.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that John Baldessari has had on the art of his time, in part because he has been something of an index case for a particular breed of conceptual art that has spread to all corners of the art world. Beginning in 1970, when he took all of his paintings from his San Diego studio—a decade’s worth of work—and incinerated them as part of his “Cremation Project,” Baldessari has systematically tested the boundaries of what can be considered art, creating strangely joyous works out of gestures as simple as hitting various things with a golf club (which he did for a series of photos), waving at ships (ditto), and placing dots over the faces of figures in old Hollywood film stills. As for how these documentations of conceptual gestures were able to function as art objects, well, Baldessari said, “the aesthetic takes care of itself.”
These ideas and the resulting artworks that seethe with the tension between art and non-art—the tightrope that the artist has walked throughout his mature career—spread like wildfire in the 1970s, in large part because Baldessari held sway over the cutting-edge art program at the California Institute of the Arts, better known as CalArts. As a teacher there in the 1970s and ’80s, he inspired a group of students that included James Welling, Matt Mullican, David Salle, Jack Goldstein, Tony Oursler, and Troy Brauntuch (several of whom became known as part of the “Pictures Generation”) with a philosophy that drew deeply on the approach of Marcel Duchamp, making direct address to the viewer’s mind rather than eye. Duchamp, after all, was something of a West Coast patron saint after the Pasadena Art Museum gave the French artist his first American retrospective in 1967—54 years after his Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 radicalized the East Coast.
Baldessari has said that “categories are meaningless,” and over the course of his career he has ranged widely in his use of mediums, developing signatures styles as diverse as sculptural cut-canvas paintings presenting surrealistically isolated body parts (a nose, for instance), videos of himself performing repetitive tasks, and, most famously, his dot-obscured compositions of stock photos and film stills—an homage to the celluloid industry in his backyard conveying both a deep sense of alienation and playful whimsicality. Text work has also been an important part of his practice, beginning with his seminal 1971 print I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, in which the artist had those words repeatedly scrawled in the manner of a disciplined middle-school student; other pieces combine text and image for destabilizing or perplexing juxtapositions.
That Baldessari has been true to his word regarding “boring art” is evident in his status today as one of the most celebrated artists alive. In 2009 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, the art world’s highest honor, and he has been the subject of many critically acclaimed retrospectives, including the 2010 show “John Baldessari: Pure Beauty.” A multivolume catalogue raisonné is currently being assembled, with the first volume published in 2012.