Saturday, August 7, 2010

"5 Alive" Emerging Abstract/Conceptual Painters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

It’s been a sizzling summer in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but that hasn't stopped me from checking out some talented painters here in the hood. These five, the first  “5 Alive” line up here at, take their craft super seriously, maintaining studios in Greenpoint and rigorously pumping out paintings in a time when abstract/conceptual painting appears to be making a comeback.

So without further ado, let’s get the party started!

1) Marley Freeman - BARD MFA 2010 Graduate.

Marley paints with a light brush, open heart, and mind; one of the more naturally gifted imagists I have encountered. She blends her personal history with a poetic lyricism, allowing her paintings to evolve one layer at a time. At the Bard MFA exhibition this summer, Marley presented what I refer to as the “break away” paintings. These paintings broke through the picture plane beyond the edges of the canvas in a manner suggesting a free form automatism and a seemingly effortless gestured application of paint.  However, upon closer examination, one could observe the conscious struggles for structural clarity below each layer.  Some of these paintings moved faster than others, giving the impression that time, experience, and expectation may not always be in sync. Ultimately, Freeman creates these organic, naturalistic compositions driven by shear will and unrelenting determination, with the end result being a fluid visual documentation of her internal process.

Seek Scan I, 40" x 48", acrylic on canvas, 2010
Seek Scan III, 54" x 60", acrylic on canvas, 2010
contact Marley @

2) Todd Kreher - Yale MFA 2007 Graduate.

Kreher paints with the strength and directness of a master stone mason, producing works that are rigorously executed and undeniably frontal. His internal process addresses the failure of architecture and the premise of meaning. As a result, Kreher re-invents traditional archetypes by re-thinking historical systems of design, display, and orientation; incorporating themes such as isolation, detachment, and singularity much in the same way a coat of arms symbol adorns a shield. In other words, Kreher’s architectural forms are badges inhabiting the picture plane, which in turn, present the armature or support as both elemental and monumental. Lastly, Kreher’s paintings confront the accepted narrative, suggesting that a truth may be nothing more than a rationalization for a false premise.

Todd Kreher, "untitled", 20" x 20 ",  2010

Todd Kreher, "untitled", 20" x  16", 2010
 contact Todd @

3) James Gillispie - Yale MFA 2006 Graduate.

I have observed Gillispie mature as a painter over the last eight years, and have concluded that his works border between hallucinatory aesthetic relativism and an expressive formalism, buoying themselves in the parallel universes of music, poetry, and folk based story telling. These paintings dig into the retinal range of formalists Peter Halley and Bridget Riley as much as they do early aboriginal and American folk art. Gillispie weaves his love of music and poetry indirectly into these paintings through scale shifts and by implementing what I call, generalized nomenclature. Weaving and pattern making take on an emotional theme in Gillespie’s work much in the same way that one may react to a piece of sheet music or prose. Relativism as high art form? Yes, as a result of Gillispie’s ability to name the unnameable through a series of stochastic painting moves, creating a visual display which fires at various levels from personal to universal.

James Gillispie, "Greenpoint,"  Oil on Linen,  40 x 93, 2009
James Gillispie, "Caught in a Web" oil on linen, 25" x 38", 2009

contact James @

4) Palma Blank - Yale MFA 2006 Graduate.

Blank addresses the grid in a controlled manner, incorporating strict modulations in scale and carefully developed color shifts that reference primordial, cyborgian, and futuristic worlds simultaneously. Although Palma's paintings have a distinct optical quality, I hesitate to place her work in the realm of op art because she implements an organic, instinctive, self-styled geometry that defies op arts more obsessive, formulaic approach. Blank's paintings work more along the lines of postminimalism, because her hand has purpose in creating these carefully structured forms that confront the grid. Blank succeeds when she finds that "in between" space of hand and machine made, which gives her paintings their pop.

Palma Blank, "boxinging", 27" x 38", acrylic on canvas, 2010
Palma Blank, "crackalack'n", 32" X 29", acrylic on canvas,  2010
contact Palma @

5) Kris Chatterson - Claremont MFA 2004 Graduate.

Chatterson represents the most geographically influenced painter in this group. Having grown up in Florida, earning an MFA in California, and setting up shop here in NYC, Kris’s paintings tend to absorb his real life journeys. Many of his paintings are largish in scale, 4 x 6 ft. range, and address abstract expressionism through the prism of a highly compressed cap. Cap? Yes, I am referring to the oil well capping mechanism BP utilized in the Gulf to stop the flow of oil. Imagine the oil cap in the Gulf with a clear lens at the top. The outcome? A never ending stream of visual information/matter forcing its way to the surface. Similarly, Chatterson’s strengths as a painter revolve around his ability to take fragments of visual experience, whether it be noticing a particular orange neon T-shirt at a California Surf shop, observing a crystal blue wave lapping up onto a Florida beach, or studying an early de Kooning at the Met, and then devising strategies to bring all of these experiences together into one cohesive visual snap shot, one painting at a time. Chatterson's highly evolved process also references our ability to manage a hyper-saturated, technology driven world bombarded by visual media. Hence, the act of art making simultaneously becomes an act of survival.

Kris Chatterson, untitled, 30" x 40", acrylic on canvas, 2010
Kris Chatterson, untitled, 30" x 40", acrylic on canvas, 2010
contact Kris @

That wraps it for the first “5 Alive” segment here at Stay tuned for more “5 Alive” editions in the near future.
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  1. Thank you for posting on these artists. As an abstract/conceptual/minimal artist here in NY it's great to see that there are others out there.