ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST REVIEWS LEONARD BULLOCK, PAUL BLOODGOOD AND GREG KWIATEK AT DAVID SWIRNER, JUNE 2010
Some triumphalism - okay, naked glee - was to be expected in the wake of the New York auctions. Both Christie's and Sotheby's took out full page ads in the New York Times to trumpet their respective World Records For A Living Artist (the Freud) and For A Contemporary Work Of Art (the Bacon). And let it be duly noted that these ads were not in the Arts supplement but the main news section of the paper. And since then there have been plenty of in-your-face megashows - Robert Therrien at Gagosian, Lee Bul at Lehmann Maupin, Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown at Tony Shafrazi - to keep the balloon in an updraft.
'Three Painters', the show that just went up at David Zwirner on West 19th Street, comes from a different artworld terrain. The three painters are Leonard Bullock, Paul Bloodgood and Greg Kwiatek. They are in their fifties and long-time friends, but their work is dissimilar, except in being deeply considered and demanding the same from the viewer.
Bloodgood makes abstracts, using a vocabulary of graphic marks to galvanise the surface. The viewer can easily feel that he is looking down upon or across an energy field. Kwiatek's canvases are nature-based, but painted into near abstracion. Most of the ones at Zwirner show the moon. "Some were painted from direct observation. And some are a combination of observation and just painting," he says.
"I go to this island in Maine. The ones that I make up there happen over a period of years. I go in August. And if I haven't finished a painting in August then it's another year before I get up there again." Bullock also takes his time. One of his canvases has a timeline of 2002 to 2008. "It wasn't like I was working on them every day. But they were always brewing. They were percolating for a long time," he says. "I never have been able to keep my hands off things like this. I wanted to make them richer. Evelyn Waugh talked about how he really envied painters because they could keep working on something until it had the richness they really wanted. Most of us don't. Most of us don't do that. I have tried. But I think you would be really hard-pressed with many of these works to say what the duration was. Some people might day, oh, he did that in an afternoon."
The Zwirner show is clearly timely - the market and media-induced giddiness is, I sense, beginning to make some people queasy - but it's more than just a deft piece of counter-programming. Leonard Bullock was invited to Germany by David Zwirner's father, Rudolf. 'I showed with Rudolf in 1986. He had invited me to come over there. And I stayed there three years. And he basically footed the bill. He sold things and paid me. It was a dream." Bullock says.
"That was a heady time to be in Germany. It was the first time they had been discovered for something other than their black past. In Cologne it as a Richter/Polke time. And that was very, very good. Those people had a very good influence on the art scene."
Bullock met David Zwirner when he was young. He subsequentlly introduced him to both Bloodgood and Kwiatek. Hence, ultimately, this show. "David Zwirner did the right thing," another painter said at the opening.