John Motley

  • Josiah McElheny and Conny Purtill, The Ground: Sun Ra’s Color Time (Blue Black over Blue), 2015, hand-rubbed casein paint, colored oil pencil, gesso, India ink, pencil on canvas, 22 x 17".
    picks September 23, 2016

    Conny Purtill

    For his ongoing collaborative project The Ground, 2009–, the Los Angeles–based artist and book designer Conny Purtill at once plays an upfront authorial figure and gladly fades into the background, letting other artists take the spotlight. This balance comes from a process of exchange that has girded all four exhibited iterations of the project. Purtill first prepares uniformly sized canvases by applying eleven layers of alternating white and toned gesso, creating a painting then sanding it away, and, finally, subtly working the surface with graphite. Once this esoteric process, which he calls

  • Mike Bray, Day for Night, 2016, light stands, wood, steel, aluminum, 78 x 96 x 78".
    picks February 11, 2016

    Mike Bray

    For his exhibition “Light Grammar/Grammar Light,” the Eugene-based artist Mike Bray pushes the generally out-of-frame mechanisms of image production into the spotlight, recasting camera optics, scrims, and cutter flags as sculptural materials and formal touchstones, rather than tools. Yet these functional objects aren’t used in the service of puncturing film and photography’s capacities for artifice. Instead, Bray’s sleek and minimal works produce mesmerizing illusions of their own.

    The video Angles of Refraction (all works 2016) is based on an Eadweard Muybridge motion study in which a pair of

  • View of “Binary Lore,” 2013.
    picks January 20, 2013

    “Binary Lore”

    Outwardly, the work of Chicago’s Edie Fake and the Portland, Oregon, duo MSHR (Brenna Murphy and Birch Cooper, who are also part of the art collective Oregon Painting Society) seem to share little common ground. Fake, a meticulous draftsman, produces the serial zine Gaylord Phoenix, which showcases his drawings of Burroughsesque psychosexuality and violence. MSHR, on the other hand, create retro-futuristic installations that combine natural regional signifiers, such as moss and driftwood, with scroll-like sheets of intricately patterned rainbow holograms and interactive audio components. But in

  • Spread from the Marianne Wex book Let’s Take Back Our Space (Frauenliteratur Verlag Hermine Fees, 1984).
    picks November 26, 2012

    Marianne Wex

    From 1972 to 1977, German Conceptualist Marianne Wex compiled an index of masculine and feminine body language, sourced from more than 5,000 surveillance-style photographs taken in her then hometown of Hamburg, as well as images from magazines, art history, and television. This archive of material was then sorted by gender, posture, and body part and displayed as drily as court evidence: Wex pasted the image groups to large cardboard panels, assigning a number to each image, and housed them in plastic sleeves. This mundane presentation seems designed to minimize any aesthetic distraction from

  • Robert Hanson, Untitled (July 9, 2011), 2011, graphite and colored pencil on paper, 12 x 9".
    picks February 19, 2012

    Robert Hanson

    The late Portland-based artist Robert Hanson is not especially well known beyond the Pacific Northwest; this is due in large part to his unwavering dedication to figure drawing. Hanson has never been concerned with the art world’s attraction to the new. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, he was devoted to abstract painting, but in 1995 he retired his brushes for graphite, colored pencil, and chalk and began his modest practice of drawing seated female models in his studio, seldom spending more than an hour on a single work. His gentle and perceptive oeuvre has always elicited some essential aspect

  • Erin Allen, Keith Boadwee, and Isaac Gray, In My Room, 2010, oil on canvas, 24 x 20".
    picks April 05, 2011

    “No Painting Left Behind”

    The traditional, historical view of painting is one of a considered and solitary practice, in which the painter’s inimitable artistic vision is inseparable from his or her faculty of sight. Even conventional perspective corroborates this, asserting that pictorial space is only seen through a single pair of eyes. “No Painting Left Behind,” a show of collaborative paintings by the Bay Area artists Erin Allen, Keith Boadwee, and Isaac Gray, undermines the notion of the suffering romantic who paints alone, offering instead a body of work created by a “team” of artists. Wired with the anything-goes

  • Erika Vogt, I arrive when I am foreign (Centennial Tin), 2006, color photograph, 46 x 92”.
    picks November 10, 2010

    “Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture”

    As the title of this group exhibition asserts, today’s open source visual culture treats pictures—whether found, manipulated, translated into another medium, or generated by the artist—as just another material resource. Where the work of the Pictures generation sought to teach viewers to read images critically, the twelve artists here are similarly instructive, demonstrating how to deploy images with culturally aware reflexivity. Importantly, nearly all of them were born in the mid-1970s: old enough to have come of age before the Internet, but young enough to have spent the majority of their