Judith Linhares: The Artist as Curator
November 27 - April 3, 2022
Judith Linhares: The Artist as Curator illuminates the wondrous world of Judith Linhares (b. 1940, California) and the abundance of inspirations that shape her artistic practice—from her time in the California Bay Area in the 1960s and 70s, to her dream journals, to other artists, five of whom Linhares has selected to include in the exhibition.
The range of paintings in this exhibition reflects Linhares’ interests in narrative as a form of personal revelation, as in psychoanalysis or the so-called “talking cure”—the desire to achieve wholeness and peace by recognizing and bringing into consciousness conflicts that need to be resolved. Linhares’ process is set in motion by making conflicts visible, working with the idea of opposing elements—abstract and figurative, light and dark, conscious and unconscious.
Gerald and Sondra Biller
Elaine and Bill Crouse
Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf
Wil and Sally Hergenrader Endowment Fund
Dr. Eloise A. Werlin Endowment Fund
Charles O. Wood, III and Miriam M. Wood Foundation Endowment Fund
Sally Yanowitz Endowment Fund
Bay Area Beginnings
Judith Linhares came of age in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area during the decades of civil and social unrest, experimentation, and challenge to authority. The search for greater “freedom” defined that moment in time. Like most artists of her generation, Linhares’ training was largely formal. Early on, she developed a respect for abstract art, specifically the work of the Abstract Expressionists and their desire to jettison many of the limitations of European representational art.
Stories We Tell Ourselves
Judith Linhares has recorded her dreams in journals for more than fifty years. Rather than using the journals as direct sources for imagery in her paintings, they are a way of charting how her mind works when dreaming—piecing together past and present, loss and joy, envy and generosity, desire and rejection.
The Artist as Curator
Linhares: “I welcome the opportunity to share the stage here with my fellow artist. The value of the artist-to-artist community has not been fully acknowledged. The connection between artists through social contact and formalized meetings has helped me clarify my own thinking. It is not about being influenced necessary, but with an art form as old and known as painting, we are all standing on someone’s shoulders. The now mythical model of the artist struggling alone in their garrets is not the full story and is a little out of date. The real story about how artists learn to make the work they need to make happens over time developing skills, cosmologies, philosophies, and whatever it takes to stay focused on their pursuit. This process is not about having a fixed destination, but more about a search that is open to change. Seeing other artists’ work in the studio or in the museum helps me think about what I am doing with my work. This can certainly be a wide range of artists – from century’s old masters to friends in my own community.
I have known the artists included in this exhibition and witnessed each of their unique paths over a period of twenty years or more. Their work takes different forms—free-standing paintings, shaped canvases, drawings, painting and ceramics, small and intimate works to large and aggressive works. What they have in common is a process that risks failure. The end product was not completely known in advance. They all have developed confidence through learning skills and disciplined thinking to arrive at their unique perspectives.
Mary Jo Vath
Linhares: “Mary Jo Vath is the one artist in this group that works only from observation. She chooses common subjects—flowers, fruit, table settings—while also embracing elements from mass culture. Vath chooses her subjects carefully, looking for what speaks to her in random encounters at the Salvation Army or a public market in Mexico.
I share with Mary Jo the idea that there is something to be learned in the practice of sitting in front of a single object or group of objects and trying to record what you see. Anyone who has tried this knows you see things differently every time you look away and return your gaze to the chosen items. There is always slippage between what you know and what you are able to see at a chosen distance.
The power of Mary Jo’s paintings is not that they are so real—it is more so that she can take a subject, like a blue wig or a cheap winter hat, and imbue it with magic. I believe this happens in her almost devotional relationship with the chosen subject. There is nothing mechanical in her process. Every inch of the painting is arrived at through intense coming together between hand and mind.”
Ellen Berkenblit’s (b. 1958, New Jersey) paintings do not foreground meaning or interpretation—each work is rather an exploration of line, color, surface, and composition. Certain symbols, such as the figure of a young girl or a leopard, do not have assigned meaning, whereas others infiltrate Berkenblit’s paintings from lived experience, such as stoplights and trucks. These symbols are not pre-planned, although they persist across paintings. Their presence emerges through Berkenblit’s transfer of energy from unconscious, to paint, to canvas. Without hesitation, Berkenblit builds on layers of painted color and form until the final image appears. This full embrace of the painting process is physical, honest, and limitless.
Linhares: “Ellen Berkenblit’s development as an artist has held special interest for me—starting from small, intimate drawings that reflect the vocabulary of cartooning. Berkenblit uses an abbreviated graphic language to depict an invented character with idealized features—a kind of Cinderella character in conversation with a cartoon cat. Her paintings evolved into challenging physical wonders that have great monumentality and power.
The paintings in this exhibition are a variety of sizes—from very large to small—and are made with paint that has a specific and luxuriant physicality. I was immediately attracted to Berkenblit’s work for her mixing of references, vernacular cartoons, and the use of her invented language to make complete compositions that are not didactic but ambiguous and open to interpretation. I am very interested in how she uses color to create a sense of an urban environment.”
Adams is an avid tennis player and compares his process to the concentration that is required in a tennis match. I think this is a complicated process that requires practice and rehearsal. Adams does not burden the viewer by showing the searching part of his process. His process shares something with acting and a spirit of play. Adams and I share the idea that painting and sculpture offer a unique opportunity to express the unison of body and mind and the spirit of play.”
The paintings of Dona Nelson (b. 1947, Nebraska) defy designation and convention—they are both flat surfaces and three-dimensional objects; abstract and figurative; spontaneous and contemplative. Nelson’s painting process is constantly evolving and flexible, much like the possibilities of the materials she works with.
The works exhibited here exemplify Nelson’s two-sided paintings. In 2003, while working on a painting in the middle of a field in New Jersey, pouring paint and scrubbing and hosing the canvas with water, Nelson noticed that the colors bleeding through the canvas created a different image and color palette on the back side of the canvas. This happenchance inspired her two-sided paintings. Nelson’s creative process continues to be guided by unplanned events that occur in the course of making a painting. Paint, cheesecloth, muslin, and string act as equal parts to create texture, mass, and color. The final work often evolves over several months, emerging out of simultaneity of thought and ever-present, ever-changing, material facticity.
The thinking involved in Nelson’s processes includes the history of twentieth-century art and the preoccupation with making a work feel as though it is always expressing a sense of Now. Nelson readily acknowledges her continued dialogue with Jackson Pollock and the act of pouring and dripping. She also adds to this piercing, cutting, folding, as well as observational drawing. All these methods, as options for making a painting, end in a remarkable sense of order and presence.”
Karin Davie’s (b. 1965, Canada) paintings extend the tradition of gestural abstraction and combine it with optical styles rooted in the 1960s and 1970s. The works have a conviction in the formal language of painting, and, at the same time, they embody the painter’s persona. They are humorous, lyrical, and autobiographical. Information is woven together from both the external and internal world to create a dynamic field of exchange between representation and abstraction. These paintings embrace contradiction and are rich in associations.
In Davie’s most recent series, In the Metabolic, While My Painting Gently Weeps, and Beam Me Up (Small), the artist has transformed the stripe motif from earlier work into rhythmic fields of wavy strokes. The conventional square or rectangle is subtly undermined by creating “intrusions” derived from shapes traced from Davie’s own body (thumb, elbows, knees) or fracturing the center of an image using the canvas’s edge. In these works, formal relationships dissolve the barrier between inside/outside and object/illusion. With an emphasis on color and unbroken, mimetic gestures, Davie works to engage us in a realm, both optical and physical. The paintings’ luminosity and motion pull the viewer into their pervading mood, sense of mystery, erotism, and quiet tension.
Linhares: “Karin Davie is an imaginative inventor and problem-solver working from multiple angles to make works that often hover between painting and object, abstract and representational—often leaving the conventional rectangle behind until she arrives at the right combination of color, form, brushstroke, and support. The effect has emotional resonance and physical beauty that is unique and at the same time has universal and irresistible appeal.
Davie has explored the effects of color, light, and materiality, inventing images that are in constant motion. The more recent paintings have a kind of repeated movement reminiscent of a beating heart. She is endlessly tenacious in pursuit of her vision, willing to experiment with paint, brush, material, and color until she gets all the elements working in unison. I have been in regular conversation with Davie for nearly thirty years. Karin Davie has extraordinary clarity of thought and talking with her is always encouraging, productive, and inspiring.”
The Artist's Studio
The artist’s studio has long been veiled in fascination and myth as a private nexus where the artist devotes themselves to the most honest form of personal expression. It is the ultimate site of artistic creation and has constantly been reinvented as a response to evolving modes of making. The function itself has changed, from a workroom (bottega), to study (studiolo), to reflective space, as well as the setting, from a traditional European-style studio, to a loft, to even outdoors (en plein air).
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Judith Linhares Prix fixe
Inspired by the exhibition, Chef Kaytlin Dangaran of Bistro created this special Judith Linhares prix fixe.
This prix fixe will be available through December.
green goddess, lime crema
Passionfruit, white chocolate