News Archive
New Paintings

Alexandra Rutsch Brock
New Paintings
Sept. 23 - Oct. 29, 2016

49 Lawton Street
New Rochelle. NY

insomnia - 1/22/16-3/26/16

link to catelog

link to NYTimes review by Susan Hodara - 2/14/16

Insomniais an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired. Artists have famously used this time in a creative way, as both a new origin and parallel to their creative pursuits. Insomnia had been a lifetime companion of Louise Bourgeois whose drawings “come from her deep need to achieve peace, rest and sleep”.
Having insomnia brings forth two things for me; creativity in the studio and being an observer on my Ipad. Going through Facebook, Instagram and Tumbler at 3 am, finding other artists who are also awake, posting images, and having discussions about these visuals. Social media can be credited for interesting discussions, critiques, virtual friendships and has culminated in this exhibition of the works of these twelve artists.
The works in this exhibition were created between sleep and wakefulness. This “insomnia time” instigates creativity. Some artists use the night to inform the day, and others use the day to inform the night. These artists have drawn, painted and constructed whatever thoughts, memories, and images surfaced. They use this productive period in a myriad of ways; to wind down and relax, to finally be alone, as a meditation and for healing. These “night studio” results are the embodiment of all the impulses, sources, and motifs inspiring their work. When they post images to social networks, they are giving the rest of the world a peek into their conscious and unconscious worlds.
Julia Schwartz has long been working on her series she calls her “Insomnia Paintings and Drawings”. These refer not just to the hour of the day when they were produced, but also to her mood and her state of mind. Her small gouache works are what inspired me to curate this exhibition. In 2013 she posted images on Facebook, and I purchased two. When talking to her about the work we found that we had a similar “insomnia/night studio practice.” For both Julia and me, our paintings were done in a meditative state and the equivalent to counting sheep. Like Louise Bourgeois, these were done with the purpose of calming down and gathering ourselves at the end of the day. Julia’s newer series relates to unbearable situations. Her works now feature figures that appear in a limited palette, arms reaching and grasping out, and a multitude of eyes looking in all directions.
Taking their night inventions into their day practice Anki King, Lauren Britton, Ola Mananaand Katherine Mojzsis use the time between sleep and awake to initiate their paintings.
As the emotional and decision-making parts of her brain are impaired, and a dreamlike state sets in, Anki draws imagery where surreal unexpected creatures, figures and events appear. These small drawings may or may not find their way into her large-scale oil paintings in the future.
Lauren’s works are meditations on her paintings, and the kind of forms that she has been exploring. She thinks of these drawings like the inside of a piped paint line – they are more IN than ON the surface of the drawing. These works are about the awkwardness and emotional resonance of bodily experience and are explorations of the space in-between awake and asleep & body and embodiment.
For Ola, insomnia is the moment she awakens and tries to recall her dream images. For the past twenty years, her work has centered around her dreams and she spends time transcribing them into notebooks. Some of her dreams are prophetic, some spiritual, some related to anxiety. She fixates on the image from this beautiful vague state and draws the scene. These drawings become small gouache studies for larger scale narrative paintings.
Katherine Mojzsis’s works on paper build up patchworks of color through planes of darkness. As the night passes, the layers continue to build. Architectural motifs float up and out of the picture plane. These then become apparatus to her large-scale oil paintings on canvas.
Sleep deprivation works well for and John Mitchell, Kerry Law andEric Brown. The desperate need for more time to do it all keeps these three artists up much too late.
For Eric, often it isn't that he can't sleep, but instead he doesn't want the day to end and another to begin. Unlike his paintings that are made with the comfort of time and direct focus, these works have an insistence. They feel immediate, done in fleeting time with a freedom of chance. It is in this propinquity that often truths are revealed.
Both working serially, John andKerryuse the night to continually study what is right in front of them. It is in the quiet time of Brooklyn after midnight that John is the most productive. He finds the sleeping person a good model because they’re still, their body present, but their consciousness not.  John’s life partner Ankihas been a long time muse of his. He has been dedicatedly drawing every day for the past 25 years, jotting down times and notations, building a true artistic diary of his life and interactions.
Creating his own visual diary when looking out a window, the night brings a different muse for plein air painter Kerry Law. For him, the Empire State Building is “an icon of continual fascination and mystery. Each painting is made in one evening from direct observation alla prima. Every night the same, every night different.” The seasons, weather and changing colors of the tower lights give him a constantly changing, yet consistent model.
The last three artists take their days into their nights. Jason Rohlf literally hashtags his night creations (a way for people to search for information that has a common topic)  #inthenightstudio, like the well-known memoir of Philip Guston by his daughter Musa Mayer.  His #shopragproject are created on soft fabric shop rags, which use the remaining paint of his large-scale paintings. Jason’s studio is within his living space, and he works on these while his family is sleeping a few feet above him. The smaller scale and quiet focus allow him to layer paint and ink, both intentionally and through chance happenings. There is evidence of paintings from the previous studio day; through similar shapes and colors, yet the night brings a loss of senses, and with it dynamic happenstances.
Peridot Smith and Lucy Mink Covello both endure the insomnia that motherhood brings. 
For Peridot, being away from her daughter brought on these new creations.  Relocating to another state for work, the new job caused a separation of their residences. She began combining the clothes and other miscellaneous items that were left in the closet from her daughter’s visits. This body of work became a place for her to process thoughts and emotions and in doing so became something new and unexpected. 
Like so many painters that are parents,Lucy Mink Covello juggles the time between motherhood and the studio.  Things around her, incorporating music, family and daily events, including her children’s reactions, inspire her paintings.  Whether painting large or small scale, the tired feelings are no different for her. The paintings just play out differently on a bigger scale. She includes so much of her daily life making them and it’s fine with her if they happen slowly. The smaller ones happen just as slowly. She treats the two sizes the same in the studio. “Insomnia is not so much about losing sleep,” says the artist. “It’s how you find yourself working differently at times when you could easily sleep instead”. 
Alexandra Rutsch Brock
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