Contrarian and Heretical

RICHARD PHILLIPS: I’ll use multiple techniques within single paintings, because the paintings can be quite different, even in the course of a single show. The imagery can be quite diverse.  I would say it is a combination of pretty standard Venetian painting techniques.
BECKER: In what sense is it Venetian? You mean your use of grisaille? 
PHILLIPS: It’s Venetian in the sense that I use a restrained palette, working fat over lean. I only embellish the monochromatic under structure or grisaille layer toward the end of the painting. Brighter colors, and especially flesh tones, allow for that sense of realism to come from the feeling of the material itself, and not from the imitative quality of photorealism. I’ve been called a photo realist and a super realist but I don’t use those techniques at all. It’s just that the end result tends to visually refer to those methods, but they’re structurally built up like architecture of color and form and not really about the imitation of photographic effects. [Richard Phillips in conversation with Noah Becker]

“I’m interested in visual vocabulary, like Warhol was interested in that vocabulary of advertisements and television and pop culture. I do a great deal of tropes. This past decade has seen a new term, “meme,” which is exactly what I’m studying. In one picture or a few words, something can reference cultural stuff but at the same time exactly hit the button with a small cultural reference that is exactly what you wanted to say or understand. It’s a stepping point to continue the conversation. Why are there buttons that are so easy to push?” [Damian Loeb in conversation with Rachel Small]

Photographic realism was something no one really expected. Photorealist painting in the 60s was all about the process of making “real” – an exploration of the banal – images without narrative. But in the 90s things began to change. Painters began to learn from artists like Gerhard Richter, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman who were using photographic images to examine the structures of narrative – particularly those kinds of images related to Hollywood, advertising and media sources. We hadn’t seen or experienced these kinds of pictures in paint, not for a very long time.

So much in these images remind me of movies. The camera pulls in to the subject – it moves in close to create a more tactile kind vision – the kind of vision that’s physically engaged. These images use cinema’s noir past and a light not unknown to Baroque painting.But instead of telling religious stories they move into our contemporary world, and we are lead to narrative structures through the richness of painted detail.

“OC: I find hyperrealist painting involves a critical dilemma: imagery is either read literally as formal content or viewed allegorically as a symbolic free-for-all. Where do you locate your work in this spectrum between empirical stock and interpretive association?
WC: There’s a lot of painting that would fit into that category (hyperrealist) for which the similarity to photography seems to be the whole point. In other words the way in which the painting is executed is more important than whatever imagery might be depicted. I see painting as story telling so for me the content is of primary importance and is served by the manner of execution. Over the last ten years I’ve moved more and more toward a very exact rendering of surface because the subject matter is better explained through that type of description. If for example I’m painting a landscape of glazed doughnuts that doesn’t look absolutely shiny, sticky, sweet, translucent, and vast, I haven’t told the story as completely as I could have. Of course once a painting leaves the studio it’s fair game for anyone to interpret as they will.” [Will Cotton in conversation with Otino Corsano]

Not only does Photoshop create an unreal yet apparently believable standard of beauty, it has ratcheted up the tension between artifice and nature to the extent that people are driven to reconstruct their own physical appearance to match its altered depictions by any means necessary, including liposuction, breast and butt implants, silicone-injected lips, and all manner of “cosmetic” surgical intervention, not to mention tyrannical fitness regimes, extreme diets, and regular depilation. We are now Photoshopping ourselves.
But where fashion photographers use Photoshop as an instrument for idealization, Minter uses it as a compositional tool, and her notion of beauty is contrarian and heretical. The exhibition’s title, “Pretty/Dirty,” is the only clue we need. Instead of cleaning up her women as fashion magazines do, or constructing a supermodel force field of unapproachability, Minter makes dirty pictures that invite joyous, rollicking intimacy. She embraces flaws and emphasizes them, glorying in indiscretions and the rushed chaos born of excitement. She finds earthy allure in the stubble of a shaved armpit, or a pimple among the freckles that have otherwise been banished from the canon of beauty. She revels in sidewalk grime soiling perfectly pedicured toes. Glitter, sweat, and smeared cosmetics conjure up honky-tonk women and Mardi Gras queens. In Minter’s tableaux, we are confronted with the history of sexuality, particularly American sexuality and its spectacular contradictions. Here are the ghosts of the stripteases and peep shows that haunt our imagination. Here is the troubling reality that some like it hot and some like it dirty. [Glenn O’Brien on Marilyn Minter]

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