Tag Archives: Painting

Check out some photographs taken while installing SHE: Picturing Women at the Turn of the 21st Century. The exhibition opens this Saturday, October 25th. Opening reception is Friday, October 24th, 5:30-7:30. Please join us to celebrate!

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Left: George Condo, The Banker’s Wife, 2011, oil on linen, 74” x 72”, Private collection. © George Condo. Image courtesy Skarstedt Gallery.
Right: Jenny Saville, Hybrid, 1997, oil on canvas, 108″ x 84, Private collection, © Jenny Saville. Image courtesy Gagosian Gallery


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Installing Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball (Ariadne), 2012-2013, Plaster and glass, 44 5/16″ x 93 7/8″ x 36 5/8″, Private Collection. © Jeff Koons





Dunham D2014.5

Carroll Dunham, Untitled (6/16/97), 1997

Developing a lexicon of pictograms since the early 1980s, Carroll Dunham has become known for his cartoon-like images of protruding phalluses, orifices, and other abstracted bodily abjections. At a time that was dominated by the rigors of process art, Dunham turned to comics, graffiti, and the psychosexual proclivities of surrealism to create sprawling canvases of silly yet seductive debauchery.

Over the years his work has grown increasingly figurative, while maintaining its commitment to the comically grotesque. In the mid 1990s he developed a series of distinct characters with penis-like noses and toothy, vagina dentate smiles. Two of these creatures can be seen floating on a raft in Untitled. One grabs his nose like a telescope, while the other seemingly steers a tiller. Untitled is an early study for Ship, 1997-1999, a large painting in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, that depicts a raucous maritime scene of fighting genitalia.

Christopher Wool “Untitled”, 1988 | Alkyd and flashe on aluminum, 96 x 72″ | David Winton Bell Gallery | Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Ostrow

“I became more interested in ‘how to paint it’ than ‘what to paint.’” [1]

Christopher Wool is well known for his large-scale, monochromatic paintings of appropriated floral patterns, bold texts, and frenzied, expressive layers of paint. On this towering eight-foot tall sheet of aluminum, the pattern imagery is obscure and inexact, but still recognizable as a decorative floral element. The expansive surface is completely flat because the painting medium, alkyd, was chemically burned onto the aluminum. In this way, the imagery cannot be physically removed from the material. In the catalogue to the Guggenheim Museum’s recent Wool retrospective, the artist Richard Prince notes, “it’s married to the surface like a vein in marble.” [2] Wool himself once described the process of making his rollered and patterned paintings, saying “an interesting friction [is] generated by putting forms that were supposed to be decorative in such severe terms.” By producing a visual image from the permanent destruction of the surface, Wool conceptually and physically declared the perpetuity of painting. To this end, he also confronts the critical discourse around the medium in the 1980s which suggested that painting was merely decorative. [3]

In 1989 Wool took part in a residency program at the Vicola della Penitenza in Rome curated by Barbara Gladstone. Over two years twelve notable artists were invited to Rome for two-month residencies, which would culminate with a group exhibition. Other artists included Michel Auder, Richard Prince, Thomas Struth, and Cindy Sherman, to name a few. Wool’s residency was situated between Franz West’s and Laurence Weiner’s. While there, Wool continued to experiment with patterned imagery and “cultural piracy”. [4] The works produced by this group were exhibited together for the first time at the David Winton Bell Gallery in 1993 in the exhibition The Rome Studio. The collection is a testament to the various ways a muse, in this case the city of Rome, can produce wildly diverse and captivating works.

View the piece in detail on our website:

– Liz Crawford, Curatorial Assistant


[1]Goldstein, Ann. “What they’re not: The Paintings of Christopher Wool.” In Christopher Wool. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998.

[2]Prince, Richard. “WOOLWLOOOLOWOOWLLOWOOWOLOOLWLOOW.” In Christopher Wool. New York: Guggenheim, 2013.

[3] Brinson, Katherine. “Trouble is my Business.” In  Christopher Wool. New York: Guggenheim, 2013.

[4] Brinson, Katherine. “Trouble is my Business.” In  Christopher Wool. New York: Guggenheim, 2013.


Here’s a sneak peak at the 250th Alumni Exhibition Part 2, featuring Sarah Morris, Rob Reynolds, and Taryn Simon! Artist Talks and opening are April 11th at 3pm and 6pm respectively.


Taryn Simon’s photograph The Central Intelligence Agency, Art, CIA Original Headquarters Building, Langley Virginia, 2003-2005, waiting to be hung in the lobby.



Rob Reynolds’ painting Untitled (Daylight 2), 2012, waiting to be uncrated.


Alice Neel, John Mollenkopf, 1970
Oil on canvas, 52 x 39 3/4
David Winton Bell Gallery, Gift of Dr. Hartley Neel 

Alice Neel, John Mollenkopf,1970

Considered “the Collector of Souls”, Neel’s numerous portrait subjects stretched across socioeconomic lines and featured a wide range of personalities.[1] Here, a young John Mollenkopf is depicted finely coiffed and barefoot at the age of twenty-four. Neel utilized warm, neutral, and grey tones throughout the canvas except for in painting Mollenkopf’s pupils where she chose a particularly cool and bright ice blue. This effect emphasizes Mollenkopf’s contemplative expression and reveals his cerebral persona.

Alice Neel was introduced to John Mollenkopf through her son Hartley and daughter-in-law Ginny Neel. “John and [his first wife] Cynthia used to visit us in Vermont and Alice painted John in our house here,” Ginny describes. “I think [Cynthia and John] met when John was getting his Phd at Harvard and Cynthia was at Harvard Law School.” Today, Mollenkopf is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology and Director of the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.[2]

This painting was produced at a particularly fruitful time for Neel and marks the beginning of a rise in recognition for her work. Within the same year, Neel’s portrait of Kate Millett was featured on the cover of Time magazine, her son Hartley was married, and she painted Andy Warhol (a portrait once deemed her “masterpiece”).[3] Just a few years later, Neel had her first retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, showcasing fifty-eight of her portraits.[4]

Hartley Neel donated this painting to Brown University in 1995. His son, Andrew, is a documentary filmmaker. His daughter, Elizabeth, is a Brown alumna and practicing artist based out of New York City.

-Liz Crawford, Curatorial Assistant

[1] Mackenzie, Suzie. The Guardian, “Heroes and wretches.” Last modified 2004. Accessed January 22, 2014.

[2] Alice Neel Estate, “Alice Neel Biography.” Last modified 2013. Accessed January 22, 2014.

[3] Lewison, Jeremy. “Alice Neel Collector of Souls.”Moderna Musset, 2008. (accessed January 22, 2014).

[4] Ginny Neel, (Daughter-in-law), interview by Elizabeth Crawford, January 15, 2014.

Frank Stella-BlueHorizon 1958

Frank Stella, 5 Eldridge Street (Blue Horizon), 1958
Oil and enamel on canvas, 73 x 73
David Winton Bell Gallery, Gift of Lawrence Rubin

Frank Stella, 5 Eldridge Street (Blue Horizon)

Blue Horizon (1958) is one of the last paintings Frank Stella made before beginning on the ground-breaking series of minimal Black Paintings for which he is best known. Produced during the summer after he graduated from Princeton University, Blue Horizon was likely begun at Stella’s Eldridge Street studio and finished at his West Broadway studio, where the Black Paintings were also completed (he shared this studio with Carl Andre).[1] Thus the alternate title, 5 Eldridge St, which is written on the back of the canvas.  Stella’s monochromatic use of color and horizontal stripes that fill the canvas anticipate his Black Paintings.

Stella was interested in pursuing a radical departure from the dominant paradigm of abstract expressionism­­­—with its gestural brushstrokes and associated existential angst. Looking to Jasper Johns’s systematically produced paintings of targets and flags, Stella built upon the use of reductively simple, repetitive compositional structures. At Eldridge, Stella painted “blocks” that he struggled to position in non-relational ways. Frustrated by the associative properties of these juxtaposed blocks, he painted them over entirely with stripes. Nonetheless, in Blue Horizon the appearance of vertical stripes across the center right of the canvas reveal the underlying presence of these geometric forms. Dissatisfied with this illusionary effect Stella turned to unprimed canvas for the Black Paintings. Stella’s Black Paintings follow the internal logic of the canvas and seem only to refer to the process of their own making. Each stripe is exactly the width of the paintbrush, and the placement and number of stripes is determined by the parameters of the canvas support.

The Bell Gallery collection also includes two series in which Stella transposed the compositions of the Black Paintings in prints.  Black Series I and II each contain eight lithographs and were printed at Gemini G.E.L in 1967.


[1] Megan R. Luke, “Objecting to Things,” in Frank Stella 1958 ed. Harry Copper and Megan R. Luke (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 23.

Anya Ventura, Arts Writer at MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology 

The slender loop of the noose is gone. The trees are gone. The crowds are gone. In Vincent Valdez’s life-size paintings of lynched brown men, all that remains are bodies. These men are lit like angels: their Caravaggio-like flesh glowing with the kind of pink holy light found in Renaissance paintings to illuminate the bodily distress of religious suffering. As they hang in poses at once beatific and disquieting, there is something strangely buoyant about these floating figures; there is a lightness to them as if they were already called up to heaven, shook loose from their mortal coils and ascending to some brighter, golden place.

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hundreds Mexican-Americans were lynched in the American Southwest, victims of a ritualized brutality executed outside of but often in collusion with representatives of the law. Men were often yanked from jailhouses and courtrooms and carried off into the streets, where their bodies were hung in front of cheering, angry mobs who believed themselves to be enacting a form of vigilante justice. These were men whose violent fates have been largely forgotten by history, kept alive only through Spanish folk ballads and dailies – laments sung at parties and funerals – passed down through the generations. [1]


Vincent Valdez, Untitled from The Strangest Fruit, 2013, oil on canvas, 55 x 92 in.

But these historical specificities are vacated in Valdez’s paintings. Instead, the men he paints with such painstaking realism are those from his own life in San Antonio, Texas. Each is rendered in tender exactitude, as if in documenting every mundane detail Valdez could pin these men to earth for a little bit longer. They wear rumpled blue jeans and cowboy hats, sports jerseys and Nike gym shorts, Hanes briefs and crew socks rolled up to mid-calf. One has an elaborate back tattoo of two hands clasped in prayer with the words “In Memory” etched below. A kind of historical transference takes place as the sins of the past are meted out in the present. The precise methods of racial violence may have changed, Valdez suggests, but the underlying prejudices are the same. Like Valdez’s other illustrations of soldiers, gangsters, and boxers, these works depict an embattled masculinity, the male body under assault. Valdez is most interested in men lost to war and violence, men whose survival is precarious at best, creating small memorials in paint as part of the process of bearing witness to loss.


Vincent Valdez, Untitled from The Strangest Fruit, 2013, oil on canvas, 55 x 92 in.

The men float sceneless against a backdrop of white — the color of erased histories, of the dominant culture, and also of a certain spiritual transcendence. In leaving this negative space, Valdez does something more expansive than merely restage a lost scene for the history books: it is a meditation on suspension in all its forms. To be suspended, after all, is to hover in that fraught zone between the earth and the sky. To suspend is also to delay, to pause the steady flow of time. What forces — social, historical, bodily, spiritual — hold these men in such limbo? With their bound wrists and entangled feet, the men hang in that liminal space between the past and the present, between life and death, in a state of physical, historical, and metaphysical tension. In painting these men, Valdez attempts to speak across that short breach between the living and the just barely gone, to souls only recently departed from still warm bodies. In none of the works do the men look directly at us. Their faces are obscured, or else they stare glassily into the unknowable distance — seeing what we, the viewers, cannot.

[1] Carrigan, William D., and Clive Webb. “The Lynching Of Persons Of Mexican Origin Or Descent In The United States, 1848 To 1928.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 2 (2003): 411-438.

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