Richard Aldrich: Artforum, 26/3/2009
RICHARD ALDRICH hates being called ironic or a slacker. The fact that critics have lately called him both, without any air of opprobrium, may say more about the critical winds encircling recent abstract painting than it does about his disparate and disarming canvases-most "nonobjective" in the old-fashioned sense, some scrawled with graffiti or collaged with media scavengings, a few overtly depictive. Such modest multifariousness invites us to imagine that Aldrich is involved in a kind of authorial gamesmanship, and it is comforting to read jokey gestures like gluing almonds to a painting or turning a canvas into a face as cunning ploys. He can't really be serious or, worse, trying too hard. Irony and insouciance are easy critical hedges against charges of unfashionable earnestness or latter-day formal fiddling. Such poses make paintings (or their beholders) seem canny or "relevant," as can the computer, the silk screen, and the photograph, to say nothing of bold-faced ineptitude. Yet by now a winking abstraction can be just as academic as a sincere one can, and Aldrich insistently resists the former path. He recasts jaded feints as quizzical discoveries, finding in shopworn signs of ending a place from which to begin.
Aldrich arrived at his ambling painterly practice in an appropriately roundabout way. After studying art and philosophy in college, he moved to New York in 1999 and spent several years making text-based drawings and penning Calvinoesque poems and essays, which he sometimes published pseudonymously in ads in Zing magazine. Experiments in electronic music soon followed with Hurray, a quartet that included Peter Mandradjieff, Zak Prekop, and Josh Brand. Although the group comprised fellow artists and even exhibited works collectively in a couple of galleries, Aldrich insists it was not an art-band but a band-band, which released a few records and gained cred on the music scene. The alternately jarring and meandering sounds of mishandled guitars and amplifiers suggest a Cagean bent that would inform, though grow more disciplined in, the paintings Aldrich began making around 2003 in a dirtfloored basement studio. They were small by necessity, since he could just barely stand up in the space, and he had to paint them flat on a table or resting on his lap-a not insignificant detail given their intimate tabular surfaces and the sense they convey of having been physically handled.
Aldrich often works on gessoed panels with a mixture of oil paint, mineral spirits, and wax, which he lays on with a brush or palette knife. The combination of the resistant ground and viscid alloy registers his short hesitant strokes with tender congealed precision. His larger and breezier canvases have been compared to Philip Guston's transitional pictures from the mid-1960s (and also sometimes evoke Per Kirkeby or Joan Mitchell), but Aldrich's touch is generally closer to Guston's nervous accretions of the previous decade. There is more curiosity than certainty in Aldrich's hand, which manages to coax a kind of quivering elegance from otherwise irresolute daubings. Almost paradoxically, however, his tentative marks unspool within broader campaigns of greater risk and gusto. He digs and scratches into his surfaces, builds them up and wipes them down. Untitled (Night Time Sky), 2007-2008, for example, is a perplexing palimpsest of starchy strata, gaps, and occlusions. In many paintings, color reverberates not through the layering of transparent veils but via delicate scumbling or tremulous fissures between abutting and overlapping opaque passages, a quality strangely reminiscent of the Nabis, and of Vuillard in particular. The muted tertiary palette calls to mind color names from a mail-order fashion catalogue-charcoal and sage, bisque and butterbut the mix feels vaguely out of season. Aldrich's compositional sensibility draws him toward the margins or center of a painting-but rarely both at once-often leaving broad expanses of naked canvas in between. The uninflected emptiness is surprising and a little unnerving, forcing an awkward disconnect between real and pictorial space. The disposition of activity at the perimeter can make it seem that Aldrich is grasping to get ahold of a painting by its edges, but when he's dithering around the middle, he seems to forget the rest of the canvas is even there.
Source: aptglobal.org (Originally from Artforum)
Frieze Magazine: Richard Aldrich at Corvi Mora, London
By Katie Kitamura
Richard Aldrich’s ‘Narrative with 5 Characters’ places the grid of the theatre against the space of the gallery. With a clear nod to Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters In Search Of An Author (1921), Aldrich abstracts and reduces theatre’s basic elements - from character and narrative, to stage, set and verse. In the schematic he creates for his new exhibition at Corvi-Mora, sculptural objects and abstract paintings act as representational stand-ins for each of these elements.
Not very much of this is immediately transparent: the show is a puzzle to be solved, its title providing a primary key (though an artist statement offers another road map of sorts). The visitor is presented with a series of small abstract paintings and one decidedly un-abstract painting, outlining what appears to be a handful of dwarves straight out of Snow White. A green puppet dragon, a small concrete letter ‘O’, a paper bag and another trollish figure fill out the gallery space.
The objects demand deciphering; the sculptural objects are relatively easy to identify as four of the title’s five characters, and the dwarf painting quickly asserts itself as the fifth. Each of the ‘characters’ seems to reference an element of stagecraft - puppetry, masks, language and symbols. The remaining abstract paintings are designated by Aldrich as the ‘conceptual architecture’ within which the play takes place: in other words, the theatre space itself.
Questionnaire: Richard Aldrich is Serious! Interview Magazine, 1st August 2009
By Alex Gartenfeld
Richard Aldrich's paintings defy a signature style but share a signature sensibility, a slack virtuosity that belies its interest in communication and self-reference. Aldrich's paintings, a new series of which opens at Bortolami tonight, can be modest, if not always in size then in casual execution and generous intimate reference. "They're sincere," Aldrich says, in a play with the seriousness of his work, "Do these paintings look sincere?"
Alex Gartenfeld: How old are you?
Richard Aldrich: I'm 33.
AG: You're 150% of me. I was born in 1986.
RA: That's funny. I remember 1985. I don't remember exactly what about it, but I remember thinking, "It's 1985," and that the year meant something. Also there is 1984, the book. I remember when the Challenger shuttle went up, 1986. A teacher from the local high school was third-runner-up to be the teacher who went up into space. That was the heavy thing: They asked the teacher, knowing that the trip would be a disaster, would he still have wanted to go up in the Challenger. And he said yes.
AG: But this has parallels in your work, in the tension between abstraction and more personal connections.
RA: This show is intimate, and very directly personal. The show I just did in London (at Corvi-Mora) was a lot more abstract. The objects had their own lives and histories. It was a lot more about the how these other things interact with each other and what structures inform the context of that interaction.
AG: But you often use text, as both part of the paintings and as press materials. Surely this provides some sort of context, even when it's part of the show.
RA: Well, for the Corvi-Mora show, I had tried to write a press release. I wrote a paragraph and it didn't really go anywhere. I wrote it again and it didn't work that time either. But I looked at these two paragraphs later and they were more or less the same thing, failed attempts at articulating this idea, but in that they were translations of each other, or two translations or perspectives of the same idea. Together they created a whole new text with a different intent and focus from the original. The exhibition almost became more about that, with the "show" serving as subject matter.
AG: So what about this show is more personal?
RA: With these recent paintings, for a lot of them the impetus comes more directly from myself. And even the installation has ended up being like some psychological schematic: One painting is across from another, one at this angle to that. One has a figure and a mirror in it so it's looking through a wall, but also behind it.
AG: There's the one that you've cut, "If I Paint Crowned I've Had It, Got Me" which appears like a window.
RA: That painting I titled after this quote of Cezanne from Merleau-Ponty's "Cezanne's Doubt": [pulls up article on computer and reads] "The painter who conceptualizes and seeks the expression first misses the mystery- renewed every time we look at someone-of a person's appearing in nature ... ‘All through my youth,' said Cezanne, ‘I wanted to paint that, that tablecloth of fresh-fallen snow... Now I know that one must only want to paint rose, "symmetrically, the place settings" and "blond rolls." If I paint "crowned' I've had it, got me?"'" It's a stance on the way that an artist should work, and go about observing and interacting with the world.
I started this painting for which I had one idea, but, again, it wasn't going anywhere. So I cut what I didn't like, which ended up being everything. And I liked it! I cut everything out and what was left was this nice shape. There were strips of wood on the ground-I had painted them the week before with no real purpose in mind, they were just like these sculptural brushstrokes-and placing them on the painting, they complemented this new cut-out composition nicely. Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don't, but often some sort of metamorphosis is necessary. Sometimes this is visible, and other times, not.
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Bortolami Gallery: January 8 – February 28, 2009
By Nora Griffin
Richard Aldrich’s solo exhibit of twenty paintings at Bortolami presents a duel between the artist’s heavy sensibility and a selection of light experiments in abstract painting. The show consists of ten large paintings (all 84” x 58”) and ten small ones on linen and panel that have the low-key presence of trial studies for the larger works. Aldrich brings together traditional painting materials (linen, oil paint and wax) with an assemblage aesthetic that sufficiently cools the blood of both mediums. The painting that opens the show, “Untitled (Large)” (2008), is a sizeable canvas of loosely realized dark gray shapes on a molting light gray ground. The overall effect, seen from a distance, resembles Philip Guston’s 1950s abstractions, a charged space of grays and pinks. However, a closer inspection of Aldrich’s painting flattens the work before the eye. The physicality of the oil paint and gesture is numbed and stabilized. This is a feeling that surfaces in front of many of Aldrich’s paintings—an over-washed dullness, as if the paintings were copies made from copies.
In many of Aldrich’s paintings, the grand scale of Abstract Expressionism and the ensuing post-modernist takes on the genre come together as awkward bedfellows. If Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bed” (1955) is a hot-blooded artwork, radiating the pathos and ebullience that spring from the physical dimension of painting, then Aldrich’s “Bed” (2008) is a closed system, cool, detached and wry. Like a remix of a classic rock track, the new “Bed” evokes memories of the past while jolting us firmly into the present. The work is composed of stretched linen with two black cloth rectangles held together by small pieces of wood that function as a kind of primitive, bone-like clasp. The bed looks clean, uninviting and fabricated, coming across as a painting’s Halloween costume of Minimalism.
Like painter Josh Smith, Aldrich moves perilously close to a child’s play vision of abstraction. But unlike Smith, the palette is never overextended into a muddy common hue. Aldrich’s paintings are oddly meticulous, always pushing themselves forward to be blessed with the glow of meaning. In his jive-talk press release for the show, the artist speaks to the unbound dynamic between artist, artwork and viewer. “The mental space of the reconstructing of artworks into meaning is the psychedelic.” Aldrich’s use of “psychedelic,” a word that has now been thoroughly transfigured into a term of fashion, returns it to its metaphysical origins as a 1960s code word. He imagines a form of the psychedelic that is not flamboyant or marked by recognizable motifs, but is about the alchemy of meaning, the trip that we embark on when we enter a gallery. It is a refreshing idea to read in a press release and creates a challenge to see each painting in line with an ad-hoc visionary tract.
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