Lateralisms: Dike Blair, James Woodfill, Stephen Westfall & Ben Dowell, The Hogar Collection, Brooklyn, NY

Ben Dowell, Untitled, 2010
Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

July 9 – August 9, 2010

Curated by Matt Wycoff

The Hogar Collection is pleased to present Lateralisms, a group show representing two generations of artists closely tied to the decisive contingency of minimalism, and to its redrawing of the parameters around both the artwork and the self/artist. The exhibition assesses a slice of the ever-shifting boundaries and implications of post minimal painting and sculptural installation.

In his essay, Art and Objecthood, Michael Fried famously decried minimalism for its theatricality. In Fried’s view the minimalist object was little more than the situation it composed. It is in this sense that Fried spoke of minimalism’s “hollowness” – its lack of self-sufficiency and autonomy from the everyday world. Art’s contingence on the viewer, history and site continues to resonate amid dialogues concerning interconnection and interdependence that globalization and postmodernism have made sometimes painfully, sometimes redundantly, apparent.

Whereas modern works purported a linear thrust focused on the new the works represented in Lateralisms foreground return as a formal strategy. This process of return privileges equation more than differentiation, and is part of an ongoing shift in the meaning of art. This shift also marks a change in our understanding of the artist, and of individuality more broadly. But whereas deconstruction spoke of the death of the author, the changes marked by the minimalist object expanded the boundaries and contingencies of the artwork, individuality and authorship, while retaining something essentially modern. Fried’s critique itself alludes to this connection to modernism. By framing the minimalist object as “hollow” Fried implies the existence of some essential vessel or form, however compromised. In this sense, the genealogy of minimalism over the past forty years is that of a restrained optimism in the wake of modernism’s failed dogmatism, and diligence in response to the vague nihilisms of postmodernism – an embrace of contingency, but a strong belief in the continuation of a distinct practice of art.

The subtle, ever more precise movements and shifts that characterize the work in Lateralisms is a kind of horizontal movement in many directions simultaneously. The results of this movement are artworks that seem more aware, closer to embodying the contradictions that enable them in the first place. This lateral movement across time and genre begins to account for how an installation and a painting may have come to mean the same thing; not in the sense of their most literal physicality, but in the demands they place on the viewer and the ways they interact with history and the physical world around them.

Dike Blair is a painter and sculptor. Since 1980 his work has been shown in venues such as the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker Art Center, Centre Georges Pompidou, the Weatherspoon Art Museum and was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2007 Blair published “Again” a collection of interviews and essays. Most recently, Blair has been the recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2010 – 2011 Rome Prize. Blair is represented by Feature Inc. in New York City, and has an upcoming solo exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, New York in the fall of 2010.

James Woodfill is an artist living and working in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries such as the Leedy Voulkos Art Center, Rocket Gallery, the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts, the Wichita Museum and the Daum Museum. Woodfill’s work has been reviewed by publications such as Art In America, Art Papers, The New Art Examiner and Sculpture Magazine. Woodfill has also worked extensively in the public art realm where his work has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects and the Americans for the Arts/Public Art Network. Woodfill has taught in a variety of capacities at Kansas City Art Institute since 1998.

Stephen Westfall is a painter and writer currently living in Rome as a 2009-2010 Rome Prize Fellow. Westfall is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a 2007 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2006 Nancy Graves Foundation Grant. He is included in many public collections including the National Academy of Design, the Kemper Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Louisana Museum and the Albertina Museum. Westfall is an Associate Professor at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and Painting Co-chair at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. Westfall is represented by Lennon Weinberg Gallery in New York City and George Lawson Gallery in San Francisco.

Ben Dowell is a painter living and working in Brooklyn New York. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in venues such as Gavin Brown @ Passerby, Smith-Stewart Gallery, Galleria Alberto Sendros, and the UCLA Department of Art’s Wight Biennial. He is an alumni of Skowhegan and the Hunter College MFA program. Dowell is currently in residence at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, in Brooklyn, New York.