Art News: Philip Taafe Paintings 2009-2011 at Gagosian Gallery and Hikari Shimoda Exhibition at Foley Gallery NYC

13 Apr


An exhibition of new paintings by Philip Taaffe, titled Paintings 2009 – 2011, is currently running at the Gagosian Gallery, his first ever solo exhibition in London.

Taaffe’s paintings are the slow product of wide-ranging meditations on the interrelation of forms and images in art, nature, architecture, and archaeology. Filtered through a critical and dynamic relation to the history of abstract painting, Taaffe’s oeuvre is remarkable for its visual exuberance and intricate craft. In a single work he might combine the gestural impulses of Action Painting with the mechanical processes of silk-screening, as well as relief printing, marbleizing, traditional gold-leaf illumination, and subtle collage processes that are entirely of his own invention.

Isfahan, 2009

Through these elaborate methods he composes dazzling schemes of great eloquence and beauty, often combining deeply personal visual reflections with quotations and vestiges drawn from a vast array of world cultures. Yet these works are not merely a compendium of historical styles; they are, in every instance, indisputably postmodern creations, paintings that speak to many of the most challenging artistic and cultural issues of our time, and which, in their complex visual and conceptual layerings, continue in the tradition of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg or Sigmar Polke.

Medalion Window, 2011

Familiar themes in Taaffe’s past work pulse through this exhibition, recast and recombined with many new elements to produce unexpected and challenging propositions. Three different impulses are immediately evident in the present exhibition.

First, two striking groups of works continue Taaffe’s fascination with ritualistic activities and archaic totemic imagery, which he combines with twentieth century optical experiments and modern animist imagery to reflect upon mankind’s earliest motivations toward image-making. In Onibaba I and Onibaba II images of brightly colored Noh masks emerge from a network of bold, black calligraphic lines derived from Japanese perforated screens and lanterns.

Buddha Field, 2011

The Javanese masks in Buddha Field indicate the wider migration of these motifs throughout Pacific cultures. The background inspiration for these works range from Taaffe’s love of classic Japanese cinema to the earliest temples of the Asuka.

Parados, 2010-2011

In a related but contrasting series, Taaffe employs masks from Greek tragedy to form a haunting chorus in Parodos. In Paintings with Byzantine Fragments, two related studies of late Roman and Byzantine busts are overlaid with imagery sourced in Coptic ornamental friezes and Paleo-Christian stone-carving, evoking the complex world of late antiquity.

Byzatine Fragments 1, 2011

Of his method Taaffe has remarked, “The importance of ornament to me is that it signifies an encapsulation or crystallization of a cultural energy embodying the geographical place and the historical time from which it emerges.” Similar ornamental motifs are deployed in a several entirely abstract meditations, Crescent Totem, and in two works (Observatory and Muscorum) that revisit the Artificial Paradise series of 2008, a title that references the dark, refined sensuality of Charles Baudelaire and the new frontiers of poetical and pictorial space explored in his writings.

Observatory, 2011

Muscorum portrays a phantasmic spectacle of seeds, spores, roots, aquatic plants and other botanical forms, these paintings harken back to Taaffe’s 1990s explorations of the great works of natural history, from Ulisse Aldrovandi to Ernst Haeckel.

Philip Taaffe was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1955 and studied at The Cooper Union, New York. His work is included in public collections including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Albright Knox Museum of Art, Buffalo; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Art; Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.

Major international exhibitions include the Carnegie International, two Sydney Biennales and three Whitney Biennials. Individual surveys and retrospective exhibitions have been organized by IVAM, Valencia (2000), Galleria Civica Trento (2001), Galleria d’Arte Moderna, San Marino (2004), and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (2008).

A ten-year survey of his work, “Philip Taaffe: Anima Mundi,” is on view from April 22 through June 12, 2011 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin, accompanied by an extensive catalogue with contributions by Enrique Juncosa, Colm Toibin, and David Brody.


Currently running through May 7th, 2011 is Hiraki Shimoda: me, as in the beast coat exhibition at Foley Gallery in Chelsea in New York City.

Birthday Party

Comfortable Sadness


Flower and Girl

Funeral of My Character

Hito Chan in Beast’s Clothing

Mid Night Birthday Party

Play War

Shimoda was boorn in Nagano, Japan, 1984. The artist states “I stand in front of my canvas and confront it, releasing all the built up unverbalized emotions, the chaos, and the unnoticeable darkness. Even though I know my contrasting side will be shone in the light with no place to hide, I paint to live and to be connected in this world.

If you cannot make it to the show, you may also visit Hikari Shimoda’s deviantART to see more paintings.

Visit our Art Gallery & Museum listings for gallery links.

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