Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stephen Magsig @ David Klein

The show has already closed, but I did want to make a quick comment on Stephen Magsig @ David Klein Gallery. The show was titled "Light & Shadow," which made me think about the two bodies of work presented. On the one hand were the paintings of New York City storefronts (light) and on the other the more expansive landscapes of postindustrial Detroit (shadow). Indeed, the New York paintings are flooded with light dappling off the architectural detail. The paintings are all up close and (im)personal, drawing attention to the facades hiding whatever of the 8 million or so stories of the naked city taking place within. The Detroit paintings are permeated with melancholy, in many instances recording areas where nature is in the process of reclaiming culture. (John Ganis, the photographer whose main project consists of documenting the intersection of nature and culture and in particular those places where nature seems to be losing, should take some comfort however grim in this.) I owe to Dennis Nawrocki the observation that the painting "Downriver Reflections" (2010) re-presents the composition of a Twatchman painting in the DIA collection. On the whole, I preferred the Detroit paintings. (And I'll wager that in his heart of hearts, so does Steve.) I think of Charles Burchfield when I look at the industrial landscapes of Stephen Magsig, in particular his painting "Black Iron"from 1935. I know Steve doesn't like the regionalist label applied to his work, but he should take comfort in something Joyce Carol Oates wrote in Smithsonian a while back. She was writing about authors but it applies to artists as well I think. She said you can't think of Dickens without thinking about London or Faulkner without thinking about the South. I think the same is true for Picasso and Paris, Warhol and New York, etc. All I can say is, "Steve, you could find yourself in worse company."


  1. Thrilled and delighted to read something by a writer with some muscle. Lay it all on me, Vince.

  2. succinct review and simultaneously wide-ranging, vince