PAINTING

“Ms. Freeman creates a kind of Russian nesting doll of satire. One that takes in, beyond masculinity, the empty cutesiness of a nascently post-literate culture, the simulated coziness of runaway consumerism and the fun-house democracy of language itself.  Here objects of incommensurate scale and importance are reduced to an artificial formal equality”.
Will Heinrich, The New York Times, 2017 

Freeman makes large-scale replicas in loosely-stuffed pleather of banal, everyday objects that have been robbed of their branding but remain instantly recognisable commodities: the cracked iPhone, a jar of vaseline, a highlighter pen, a light bulb, among others. In her hands, such objects are ironically deflated and transformed into sagging objects that sink into themselves, weary of form.  

For her first solo exhibition with Carl Kostyál in the London gallery, Freeman has chosen the essential tools of the business of installing and documenting art as the objects of her wickedly clever and wry scrutiny.  A spirit level, a tape measure, a Stanley knife, a paint tube, a tube of toothpaste (just to keep us on our toes), a pizza box (for those late night installs) and majestically, the reverse of landscape format painting complete with gallery labels – Freeman takes each of these humble or unseen aspects of the mechanics of hanging paintings in an exhibition out of the toolbox and thrusts them boldly centre stage, transforming them into the objects they usually serve to mount, monumentalised, immortalised in vinyl and polyfil. 

Al Freeman (b. 1981, Toronto, Canada) lives and works in New York. She received her B.F.A. from Concordia University in 2005, and her M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art in 2010.  

Her work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations, including recent exhibitions at Grice Bench, Los Angeles; Carl Kostyál, Stockholm; 56 HENRY, New York; Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels and Bortolami, New York.  

She has been featured in various group exhibitions at Harper’s Book, New York; 56 HENRY, New York; Carl Kostyál, London; Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York; Chateau du Feÿ, Bourgogne; CUE Foundation, New York; Almine Rech, New York; Marlborough Contemporary, New York; Reyes Projects, Detroit; Galeria Alegria, Madrid; and Stems, Brussels. In 2017, Freeman published Comparisons with Flat Fix, Brooklyn.  

 

Photography © Carl Kostyál (Yuki Shima)

Someone’s Missing

Carl Kostyál Milan proudly presents Someone’s Missing, Los Angeles-based artist Jess Valice’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

Born 1996 in San Fernando Valley, California, Valice lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Having initially studied Biopsychology, she decided to become an artist instead. She is precociously gifted, both as a painter and in her handling of space. For this exhibition, she has made a series of large and small scale portraits in oil.

Bold in scale and unflinching in their gaze, the face of the artist gazes out at us, like selfies rendered confidently, masterfully in oil. The artist as meme. Her other subjects are an idea of what God might look like, other friends, but it is always the artist’s own eyes that look back at us, pensive, uncertain, lost in mourning for her father, who hailed from Italy and whom she recently lost, all too young. Valice pays compositional homage to the classical tradition of portraiture. The distorted perspectives of foreground versus background and the staged backdrops hark back to 17th Flemish pastoral landscapes. But her characters, though cast in a more subtle palette,  also share a cartoonish voice with the clownishness of George Condo, the outrageous figures of Phillip Guston, the bold and monumental gestures of Dana Schutz, their exaggerated extremities, feet, hands and ears looming, oversize, like Popeye’s bulging biceps, from the picture plane, pulling the rug of assumed gravitas from underneath the painting as we study it.

These paintings have a gravitational pull that is hard to walk away from. You want to talk to this person. Comfort her. Reassure her. Argue with her perhaps. But you can’t turn your back.

Jess Valice has exhibited at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm; Bill Brady, Miami; ATM Gallery, NY, The Pit, LA; Wilding Cran Gallery, LA; The Lodge, LA; and the Library Street Collective in Detroit.

Her solo show at Carl Kostyál, London opens in April 2022

– Katharine Kostyál

 

Photo: Emiliano Scatarzi; ©the artist. Courtesy of Carl Kostyál

Hero Complex

Emma Stern on Canyon Castator and the Hero Complex

Every girl in New York City knows it’s a risky move to be out on the street in broad daylight eating a popsicle. This rule also applies to lollipops and ice cream cones, and to a lesser extent bananas and hot dogs. These food items, by design, must be eaten sensuously, and thus may excite the imagination of certain passersby but it was fucking hot outside, and didn’t I deserve a little treat? Walking down West 8th in the heat, in my little sundress, gently flicking the tip of my moist pink tongue over the corner of my SpongeBob Squarepants Frozen Treat TM, I remember the black food coloring from the gumball eyes had bled down the front like streaky mascara tears, and it distinctly reminded me of the cover of Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ album. ‘I’m miss world, somebody kill meeeee,’  I hummed gently to myself as a sweet yellow dribble traced its way from my bottom lip to my chin where it hung, trembling. In my little sundress, which clung to my thighs and damp chest, glistening beads of sweat, I paused at the corner waiting for the light to change.

“DAMN baby lemme get a taste! I see how you lick that thing, I’m tryna be a popsicle for you, girl.” This from a man who had been digging through the trash with no shoes on — ladies, you know the type. No cause for alarm, just a run-of-the-mill catcaller, and to be fair, I had mentally prepared for this potentiality prior to my decision to eat a popsicle in public.

“HEY, get lost creep!” This from a man also waiting at the light, mid to late 30s, bald head and a big beard so it looked kind of like his face was on upside down. To The Catcaller, The Hero continued, “Shame on you for bothering this woman. I said get lost!”

The Catcaller did not get lost, nor did he appear to particularly put off or threatened, but he just kind of smacked his gums and turned his attention back towards his trash-picking, at which point The Hero turned his attention towards me. “You know,” he said to me, “When guys are being creeps to you on the street, you should tell ‘em to get lost.” I locked eyes with him as I dislodged a little black gumball eye from its socket and popped it into my mouth. “Okay,” I said to him. “Get lost creep.”

Hero Complex

So now you’re wondering, what does this have to do with Canyon Castator’s show? Well, nothing really, it has to do with me, but that’s kind of the point. And it’s not my fault.

One cornerstone feature of the millennial worldview is something I’ve heard referred to recently as ‘Main Character Syndrome’, which for the purposes of this text I believe is interchangeable with the show’s title, ‘Hero Complex’. In my extensive preparatory research, I came across a June 2021 Glamour Magazine article titled ‘Have you got ‘Main Character Syndrome’, the worrying Millennial condition when people view their life as a narcissistic film thanks to social media?,’ and I thought that headline actually gave a pretty succinct definition of the phenomenon so I did not read the article.  I did, however, scroll down to the very last paragraph in which someone named Helen Llewellyn who is the Director of something called Infinity Wellbeing, says the condition might “have a temporary benefit of bolstering self-esteem but only if others play the part they have been given.”

Helen makes a great point. The illogicality of this collective fantasy is obvious, we cannot all be main characters and heroes, because then who plays the supporting roles? The extras? The hot girl who dies in the first 20 min? Everyone else must play the part they are given. Furthermore, a hero can only exist when positioned in contrast against some malevolent antagonist. If no antagonist exists, then one must be created in order to enjoy the full hero’s journey experience. But because there are so many heroes, antagonists are always in short supply. This means that heroes need to share a common enemy, which is why there is an incomprehensible but distinct selection process that the internet appears to collectively cycle through every few weeks, agreeing on some common enemy to gang up on. The most effective way to do this is, of course, by dunking on anons in the comments, and remember: The more engagement = the more heroic. To quote the world’s foremost meme researcher Brad Troemel, “The reason we are able to drift seamlessly from one collective scolding session to the next is because no one actually gives a shit about any of these antagonist’s forgettable misdeeds, it’s all just cannon fodder for people’s compulsive desire to create social media content that frames them as the protagonist in their own story.”

Luckily, we only have access to our own accounts, so we are never forced to directly address what we all deep down know to be true, the cognitive dissonance we all willfully and knowingly engage in to maintain the indulgent private fantasy of being the hero in our own movie. Helen finishes out the Glamour article with a prescription: “Young people can avoid this syndrome by practicing living in the moment. Walking in nature, practicing mindfulness or meditation can help.” But I think Helen doesn’t know shit and I don’t think ~*LiViNg iN ThE M0mEnT*~ is going to help a generation of dissociated and vulnerable irony-poisoned insomniacs who survive on a steady diet of bodega meat, cigarettes and Zoloft and are increasingly hellbent on ‘being baby’ as a lifestyle choice because their fictional hero’s journey is literally all they (we) have. Plus I looked up Infinity Wellbeing and turns out it’s just a spa in Bangkok with only 14 reviews on Trip Advisor so you’re not really in a position to be giving advice, are you Helen????

Most, if not all of Canyon’s paintings in ‘Hero Complex’ hit on this particular ennui. I think of it as a co-morbidity factor of ‘My Life A Movie’ mindset. In the piece titled ‘Fin’, 9 distinct figures are crammed into a claustrophobic composition in which the edges of the canvas appear to be literally closing in on them. Each character has nothing to do with one another. They do not interact, despite the fact that they are literally overlapping on top of one another in what appears to be an undersized canoe with a bite taken out of it. They somehow do not appear to even be touching, less like actual bodies piled up, more like stickers stuck on top of one another. Even the style in which they are rendered varies from figure to figure, some gestural, some pure cartoon, each apparently borrowing from a separate mood board of art historical and pop cultural references ranging from anime to Ren & Stimpy to Peter Saul to Dali. Almost as if they were each in their own movie.

My favorite piece in this show is called ‘Can’t Save Everyone’. It stands apart from the body of work surrounding it because of its starkness. Against a flat white backdrop, a single figure in a Spiderman suit is hunched over, head in his hands. The Spidey suit has been a recurring theme in Canyon’s work basically since I’ve known him. According to Canyon, the appeal to him is that Spidey is essentially the only superhero in the Marvel Universe to completely obscure both his face and his body.  His whole story can be read as a metaphor for the way a costume changes a person’s behavior. For Peter Parker, the costume he wears is literally what makes him a hero. He is basically an anon. In my admittedly narrow knowledge of the Spiderman, I was going to Google ‘Is Spiderman based’ but when I got tp the letter ‘b’, Google suggested ‘Is Spiderman bisexual’, ‘Is Spiderman Black’ and ‘Is Spiderman banging Aunt May’. I thought that was pretty neat so I decided to test out the pattern I saw emerging and typed into the search bar, “Is Spiderman j”. Turns out I was right, there are multiple subreddits discussing whether or not Spiderman is Jewish and an entire article discussing the topic in the Times of Israel. Since 2019 there have been 4 reported incidences of armed robbery by men in Spidey suits including a bank robbery, in New York City alone. Also one time the fat Spiderman in Times Square grabbed my friend’s ass.

I found a reddit thread in r/cmv (change my view) named ‘Spiderman is a stupid superhero CMV’, which kind of helped me to understand why Spiderman iconography is so prevalent in millennial visual culture, particularly in memes. The original post by maxamillion1357 reads: “I just find Spiderman so freaking boring. He’s inherently superhuman, so he loses some of the vulnerability that makes characters like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne more human and interesting, but his powers are fairly mundane …If you put a hugely dangerous villain, able to affect events on a global scale (like Magneto) in a fight with Spider-Man, Spider-Man would get his shit wrecked. Also, he should suffocate in that suit. HOW DOES HE BREATHE IN THAT THING?”

To which one user (account since deleted) replied: “The thing I like about Spider-man is that he fits the archetype of a “regular man thrust into an extraordinary situation.” … Neither Tony Stark nor Bruce Wayne are “ordinary men” in any sense of the word. They were born into riches, privilege, and greatness. Don’t even get me started on Thor. I can’t even fantasize about being them, they’re too different than I am. But I can imagine what I would do if I got bitten by a radioactive spider and developed super powers. Like Peter Parker, I’d have to deal with my day-to-day job, family, and friends while deciding how to best use my powers. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne chose greatness. Thor and Superman were born into it. Steve Rogers was selected for it. The X-Men are fighting persecution. The Hulk can’t hide who he is. Spider-man is one of the heroes to have greatness thrust upon them and have to respond. Also, on the suit thing- many fabrics are very breathable. I’m a puppeteer and I work in a hood from time to time. It covers my face, but I breathe right through it.”

So you’re probably wondering, what does that have to do with Canyon’s show? Well, not much really, but when he first asked me to write this text, I said, “Why, because I’m a woman?” And he said “No, because you’re annoying,” and he was right :]

– Emma Stern

Photography © Carl Kostyál (Viktor Fordell)

Målningar Till Mamma Och Pappa

Camilla Engström’s first solo exhibition in Sweden Målningar till Mamma och Pappa (Paintings for Mum and Dad) is now open at Carl Kostyál | Hospitalet in Stockholm

“This is the first time my parents have seen an exhibition of my work. They have been very supportive and sometimes lent me cash for all these years I spent running around the world so now I want to dedicate this show to them.” – Camilla Engström, September 2021

Engström was born in Örebro, Sweden, in 1989. Having tested the water in Shanghai and New York City, she landed in Los Angeles. Her bucolic, metaphysical landscapes celebrate the healing properties of Mother Nature. Their trippy, hallucinogenic palette and voluptuous curving forms call to mind the cut-outs of Henri Matisse, while channelling the female energy of Georgia O’Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama and her fellow Swede Hilma Af Klint. Hailed as both “feminist and fecund”, Engström’s art offers an uplifting riff on millennials’ preoccupations spawned by the digital realm, from body shaming to the cult of the self.

Engström’s recent solo exhibitions include ‘Returning Home’, Over The Influence Gallery, Los Angeles (2020); ‘Husa’s Garden’, Hilde Gallery, Los Angeles (2018); ‘Flora’, Cooler Gallery, New York (2017); ‘Faces’, Deli Gallery, New York (2016); ‘Camilla Engstrom’,Room Salon, New York (2016).

Her work has been exhibited in group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, New York and Stockholm, when part of ‘Stockholm Sessions’ in May 2021 with Carl Kostyál Gallery.

 

 

Photography © Carl Kostyál (Viktor Fordell)

Mohilef Studios Artist Residency

CANYON CASTATOR & CARL KOSTYAL LAUNCH AN ARTIST IN RESIDENCE PROGRAMME AT MOHILEF STUDIOS, DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

The Texas-born, Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Canyon Castator & gallerist Carl Kostyál are pleased to present an invitational, not-for-profit artist in residence programme at MOHILEF STUDIOS in the Flower District in the heart of historic downtown Los Angeles. 

About Mohilef Studios:

35 variously sized studios – current occupants include Hannah Lupton Reinhard, Tim Irani, Travis Fish, Jess Valice, Camilla Engström and Canyon Castator. MOHILEF STUDIOS has quickly become a critical space for the exchange of ideas amongst these artists. 

The residency offers the use of a studio space within the building for up to 6 months. 

“After artist Canyon Castator moved to Los Angeles from New York, he spent weeks walking around downtown in search of a studio. He found one in a five-story industrial building in the flower district. Crowned with an outside sign, the “Mohilef Bldg” was filled with textiles production facilities. The owner had never rented to artists. Six years later, the building has been transformed into a bustling creative hub, with 35 emerging artists working in renovated studios on all but the ground floor. Light pours in through enormous windows, no longer covered with tarp. Crates with artworks move in and out. With its critical mass of in-demand artists, the building has become a destination for art-world insiders and tastemakers. Dubbed Mohilef Studios, it even has its own Instagram account.” Katya Kazakina, Artnet news, 2021