Chyrenheppa Diefendorf, my alter ego and art interviewer, joined me recently for a trip to Chelsea to look at landscape art. “We’ve tramped all up and down from 19th Street to 26th,” she said. “Did you think anything was worth seeing?” And I replied that yes, I did, but it was not painting as I had hoped. It was photography.
CD: why had you hoped for painting?
DZ: because I’m always trying to define for myself the relevance of landscape painting. I’m not sure that a landscape painting is anything other than reportage, a look through the window at the scene beyond.
CD: What about those really big paintings we saw at Stellan Holm in Day-Glo colors that are “spanning the compositional formalism of the Hudson River School to a reverence for nature akin to Joseph Beuys’?” Surely the artist get some creds for linking to Beuys?
DZ: For starters, I get put off the art when the statement is poorly written. But there was a certain likeable-ness about the paintings, just nothing new to add to the dialogue.
CD: putting aside the question of why you want landscape painting to be something other than what it’s always been, did you feel the photography had anything more to offer?
DZ: Well, right off, photography is a look through a window, or lens, no matter how you manipulate it later on. So in his Dark Forest prints, Japanese artist Keita Sugiura starts by looking, but in the extrapolation of the camera’s information, goes far beyond that to create a world of richly dense darks and flickering lights that might have been painted but was not.
CD: scuse me?
DZ: Extrapolation - loosely put, extending the application of a method to an unknown conclusion based on trends in the known data. The going beyond was also there in the Kusho “writing in the sky” photographs at Bruce Silverstein. Watching the microlevel of India ink and water at the moment of their convergence is only possible thanks to technology that allows the photographic recording of phenomena within 7,500th of a second. But the result, again, almost fooled me into thinking it was a painting, just one that no human could have pulled off.
CD: sounds less like looking through a window and more like process.
DZ: You’re right, Chyrenheppa, and that’s what I want.
Brendan Cass at Stellan Holm through March 4
Keita Sugiura at Max Protetch closed February 21
Shinichi Maruyama at Bruce Silverstein through March 7