Mike Carroll, an artist and gallerist who lives and works in Truro, MA. He is the owner of Provincetown’s Schoolhouse Gallery. Here is Art He Loves & Why.
Milton Avery (1885–1965) Bay at Night, 1961 Oil on canvas, 36″ x 28″
I will take any opportunity to see a painting by Milton Avery that I am given. ‘Bay at Night’, at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum offers an occasion to do so.
Two conditions that come to mind as I look at this painting: impossible and possible. Similarly to some photography the painting gives us something we would not have without the artist; a point of view and a way to see something that falls somewhere on the spectrum between impossible and invisible. ‘Bay at Night’ is a dark painting, a view from above onto an almost complete absence of light. We could not have seen this without Avery’s decision to paint it. He seems to have rendered the resonances of our memory of and familiarity with places like this, a real physical manifestation of an afterimage. Yet the paint is put down with the total understanding of what paint is, and can do.
For me Avery’s paintings so much about paint but all about language. He applies the paint in a way that is like analog writing in that his hand is present and the marks seem to result from the position and arrival of his hand as it lands on the surface. Not like a signature but more like a description. There’s a sort of a literary torque to the application of the paint that is quietly exhilarating. And I am transported back to one of my favorite moments in American art history when artists like Jane Freilicher, Frank O’Hara, Ben Shahn and even Larry Rivers and Joan Mitchell where using paint to describe places and subjects in the midst of the moment of abstract expressionism. This turn towards reality and the description of it, especially during a moment of reality’s abstraction has always felt exciting to me. Seeing ‘Bay at Night’ is like being told about something in a different language (paint) with the gift of perfect understanding.
Untitled (2019-015), 2019 Color laser prints on printer paper, mounted onto Strathmore Bristol 100 lb vellum paper 24h x 19w in
I had the pleasure of being given a tour of Ken Fulk’s newly restored Mary Heaton Vorse House in Provincetown recently by Joe Sheftel, the curator of its inaugural exhibition. Joe has installed with elegance and conviction an exhibition of contemporary artworks that complete the house’s story while interjecting something new, exciting, and sensual.
The home has many small rooms and seem to operate in succession and also feel like a Fabergé Egg (albeit New England style). Despite this the exhibit is extensive and thorough, offering one delight after another. Called, Intimate Companions, the show’s title and themes reference Intimate Companions: A Triography of George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Lincoln Kirstein and Their Circle by author and playwright David Leddick.
One of the larger rooms shows Untitled (2019-015), 2019, a collage using photography by Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Despite all of the wonderful work in this show this is somehow the piece that has stayed with me. It is not large or demanding in nature. Rather its scale is that of a book page and it wants to be viewed with some of the intimacy it conveys.
Sepuya makes photographs that examine the relationship between artist and subject. He is often in the photographs he takes with friends and using mirrors. He and his fellow subjects are frequently nude and the images are intimate, scrutinous and somehow safe and hopeful. So much of what photography is and does is to collapse and reorganize public and private space and so much of what Sepuya does is to talk, using queerness and blackness, about that space in a new way that is both contemporary and necessary. He is also changing the medium by equalizing signifiers from within the picture and arguably providing a necessary update for photography from one of its sleazier early roots: the often-exploitative camera club. Finally, the thing I love about this image is common to almost all works of art that live in my body through time; the eyedropper amounts with which each decision the artist has made have been executed: perfectly. Sepuya has tailored his idea with precision and tenderness in such a way that it is made to feel even more potent.
Jack Pierson STILL LIFE 2020 enamel, gold leaf, metal, wood 39 1/2 x 42 x 2 ½”
This piece which is at the Albert Merola Gallery in Provincetown is by an old friend of mine and that is what I feel and think every time I see something he’s made. His works reach back to when we met as students in Boston and then arch forward through time to show up it their gentle, insistent way, making the important contribution to contemporary material culture that they do.
Still Life would only suffer a tiny bit from being obvious if it didn’t so perfectly understand and acknowledge our own present suffering. The wordplay is simple and simple things are the hardest to make and to do. Life is still and it is still life for us – but what kind of a life is it? The found letters that make this piece – the old bones of the American Experience – are the perfect material to ground the work and the viewer. I imagine that almost every other material would interfere with or override the deft skillfulness with which language and meaning pivot, land and leap around these fonts, and might interfere with the way that, with his perfect choice of language, Jack has made the subject and the formal construct of this piece time itself. Look at this wonderful piece of art. You will feel seen.
MIKE CARROLL is an artist and gallerist who lives and works in Truro, MA. He is the owner of Provincetown’s Schoolhouse Gallery where he is well known for presenting the finest in collaboration and new thought in the gallery and at a variety of outside projects. His own work has been exhibited throughout the US, is in numerous collections and has been written about in Art New England, Provincetown Arts, Big, Red& Shiny and Artscope, among other publications. He will exhibit new paintings at The Berta Walker Gallery from August 15 – September 5, 2020.