— Drawing on the Utopic


largeUNTITLED, 1965
Joan Mitchell

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I am finishing up the beer bottle labels (neck label pictured above) for my just completed home brew and am really, really trying to save some for the grand opening of post pocket utopia at The Gateway Project.  The labels (neck and body) and bottle cap and the brew inside have been all made especially for both post pocket utopia, an art piece and for (Em)Power Dynamics : Exploring the Modes of Female Empowerment and Representation in America, an exhibition inspired by the collective body of flower paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, starting in 1924, and Ana Mendieta’s Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations), 1972.

Here’s the list of the exhibiting artists: Jaishri Abichandani, Renée Cox, Ayana Evans, FLUCT, Angela Fraleigh, Chitra Ganesh, Rachel Mason, Marilyn Minter, Sophia Narrett, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Michele Pred, Ventiko and Shoshanna Weinberger. (All amazing and curated by the amazing Rebecca Jampol and Jasmine Wahi.)

Also, Shoshana Weinberger will be graciously contributing an image to the main or body label on my beer bottle.  Although I’ve been working on this beer all summer and preparing my space, I feel so lucky that I basically get to drink beer that night and experience this great show.  My post pocket utopia is right off the main exhibition space so you might have to look for me, but just ask where the Bad Ass Beer is located, which is a little bit down the hall.  Here are the opening details for the main exhibition:

(Em)Power Dynamics : Exploring the Modes of Female Empowerment and Representation in America

September 9, 2015 – October 23, 2015
Opens: Wednesday, Sept. 9th 2015
Exhibition Reception | 6:00 – 9:00 PM

NEWARK, NJ 07102

And more about the Gateway Project since it is a really amazing endeavor…The purpose of the Gateway Project exhibition space is to host socially engaging exhibitions and community programs to cultivate critical social dialogues. It achieves this mission through bold exhibitions, community programming, and support of artists that create work for social change. The exhibition space is co-directed by Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol, two curators dedicated to activism, justice, and strong multi-disciplinary art.

The Gateway Project gallery space is a subsidiary of Project For Empty Space, a 501c3 non-profit arts organization.


Picture above is The Gateway Center.

My post pocket utopia space will activate a portion of The Gateway Project’s storefront level (as mentioned above just down the hall) and will be an art piece geared to engage the community.

My inaugural project ‪is #‎SEEINGNEWARK‬, an open-sourced photography project collected through community submissions.

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Beer Label above with text added is Georgia O’Keeffe’s, ‘Special No.21’ 1916 (found on this cool blog – http://jamesrussellontheweb.blogspot.com/2011/05/richters-skater-paintings-lost-and.html)


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Here are pictures of what will soon be a post pocket utopian art piece, where home brewed beer will flow and where discussions will generate exhibitions.  More studio than gallery and situated along side and within the amazing and expanding Gateway Project with Rebecca Jampol and Jasmine Wahi at the helm.

I’m embarking on another art experiment.  I’ve been hard at work (brewing and moving) and on September 9th I’ll officially start off with an open and ongoing call of photos of Newark, New Jersey (#seeingnewark).  On that night we will toast with a home brew I made especially for the occasion, which we are calling Bad Ass Art Bitch Beer (BAABB).  Cheers!!

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Jasmine Wahi with her back toward the camera and Rebecca Jampol glancing in from the side, these two amazing curators are leading me a hand and an opportunity to really have some fun this time in Newark (with art making, place making, classes and more, more, more)!

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What started as a candid e-mail correspondence that evolved into a visit via Skype to Sasha Petrenko’s fabrication lab class of art and architect students at the University of San Francisco ended up on the rooftop sculpture terrace of the Thacher Gallery.  Below, our process and Sasha‘s Pinophyta that clearly borrows its form from the pinecone.  One can either sit or wear, be or dance at this exhibit up through December 2015.

Skyping in the Classroom

We found an open-source design for a stool by Samuel Javelle, called a pod.  Sasha Petrenko translated all the measurements, figured out a work plan and set an agenda for making them with her students and allowing for me to chime in.  She really is the genius in this project!

Her students, all of them artists, did a great job, here they are up on the sculpture terrace.

Waiting to be perched on.

Sasha’s Pinophyta with Llewelynn Fletcher in the background and May Wilson foreground.

Sasha’s Pinophyta.

For Sasha, individual cells form a larger structure and in its form is a reflection on the conifer.


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Up now at the gallery, The Rachel Libeskind Society, an installation of amazing….

Her hand-print.

Beards, eyes, lips.

Lots of crowns.

An errant hair-dryer up high, as ancient ornament, hood or armor?  Halos abound!

A Rachel-basic building block consisting of the triangle and the square.

The guard and Rachel’s admirers in the foreground.

Point and stand on one leg.

Come by,  peer in the window, party on the 25th.


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With our kids back at school we drank our coffees and teas and I put pen to paper again.  Jen, finger up, sips her coffee, steamed with milk from Rocco’s.

Always needing a pencil sharpener.

Above Guy and Elaine, waking up and chatting and listening, it’s 7:59 am.

I’ve switched from coffee to tea.

A close-up before heading out into the day.

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Clouds are Our Mountains


The Jade, Miami

Dec. 4 thought Dec. 6, 2014


Bell May

Janet Sobel

Sangram Majumdar

Yevgeniya Baras

Matt Phillips

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson

Sara Russell Dewey

Matthew Miller

A. Pilat

December 4 – 7, 2014

image: Bell May, “plight, “ mixed medium on paper

The Jade

Apartment # BL43

1331 Biscayne Blvd.

Miami, Florida

In conjunction with and thanks to :

Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects

Gary Snyder Fine Art

And Undercurrent Project’s Katie Peyton as artist/writer in residence

Opening preview by invitation, Thursday, December 4, 6pm to midnight, Champagne

Open to the public:

Thursday, December 4; 6 – 12midnight

Friday, December 5; 12noon – 12midnight

Saturday, December 6; 12noon – 12midnight

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson – Untitled (Drawing Studies) 2013 9 x 13 inches colored pencil, oil pastel on hand-made abaca paper

Janet Sobel -Untitled (JSP 127), c. 1942 Gouache on paper 9 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches

Sangram Majumdar, Intersection, 2014 Oil on Canvas 30 x 24″








Yevgeniya Baras Untitled 2014 Oil on Canvas 16″x20″







Matt Phillips, “Form out of Water,” 2013 Oil on Canvas 20″ x 24″


Sara Russell Dewey, Untitled (ceramic installation) 2014, var. dim








Matthew Miller, “untitled, “ 2010 5.5 x 8.5 inches, oil on paper, 2010





















A. Pilat, 2014 Ball point pen

Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia, Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, Gary Snyder Fine Art and Undercurrent Project’s Katie Peyton (who will be our writer/artist in residence at the Jade) are pleased to present an exhibition of selected work by artists; Bell May, Janet Sobel, Sangram Majumdar, Yevgeniya Baras, Matt Phillips, Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Sara Dewey, Matthew Miller and A. Pilat at the Jade during Art Basel Miami 2014.

For the Jade, each artist contributes one to two pieces that are woven together within the context of this particular apartment setting.  Janet Sobel, once admired by Clement Greenberg and infamously, Jackson Pollock, presents early work, before the all-over drips, dating from 1942, where she depicts pastural scenes perhaps reminiscent of her childhood in the Ukraine.  Bell May, an artist very much alive, makes a type of mixed media painting on paper combining and recombining the female figure with key themes of sexual politics.  Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson also presents work on paper, a drawing study for her larger and well known weavings of Iceland.  Sangram Majumdar, a painter will present recent paintings tracking his interest in combining abstraction and perceptual painting.  Yevgeniya S. Baras, a Regina Rex curatorial member, will exhibit her tough textural abstractions.  Matt Phillips will show exquisitely colored abstractions, that are modernist and geometric.  Sara Dewey will fill the apartment with her abstract ceramic sculptures, A. Pilat will have a ball-point pen drawing on hand and Matthew Miller will show a painting of clouds.

Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia is honored to partner with Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, Gary Snyder Fine Art and Katie Peyton of Undercurrent Projects.  Come for the art, have a drink, stay for dinner, join the conversation.

Jade Residences is located at 1331 Brickell Bay Dr., Miami, Florida 33131 

at Brickell Bay and SE 14th Street on the bay in the Downtown/Brickell area

Please call (212) 729-3011 or email Austin Thomas / ats@toast.net for more information.

511 w. 22nd Street

New York, NY 10011

(212) 729-3011




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“I don’t identify with this guy at all,” the artist tells me, gesturing towards the painting of himself that hangs between us – “I want him to be literally my likeness.”  I am sitting down with Matthew Miller to discuss his current show, Can’t You See It, I Am One, which comprises of five stunning yet chilling portraits of the same face – his – against a Mars-black background, straight from the tube.  Larger than life, the figures exude a remarkable intensity for faces otherwise  devoid of categorizable expression.  They don’t frown nor do they smile, but rather occupy some emotional middle ground much more complex and entirely dependent on the attitude of the viewer.  I still haven’t decided just what I find in these faces, but it is clear that there is something larger going on here apart from the obvious – “I’m not purely participating in self-portraiture,” Miller tells me.

Perhaps there is something in man’s attempt to see himself visualized that carries a certain weight for us as humans.  The classic self-portrait creates a layering in which the viewer is able to view the process of the artist viewing himself.  Matthew relays this to me as a “self-referential, circular way of looking that is making,” regarding all resultant relationships between the artist, the painting, the mirror, the viewer, etc. as “triangular” or “circular ways of looking,” that converge and transmute in unexpected ways.  There is no denying that the artist willingly engages with the features of self-portraiture as they pertain to technical effect and this dramatic cycle of looking, but avoids the classification on more ideological grounds.  “The programmatic qualities of portraiture are there to be used, not exploitative,” he tells me, and by not adhering fully to the label the art enters a place “where other conversations and interpretations can happen.”

Take for example his signature black background.  The hard, flat black jars in a slightly unnerving way with the fluid translucence of the shadowy skin tones.  In 2011, Miller produced an exhibition at Famous Accounts which he titled ‘the magic black of an open barn door on a really sunny summer day, when you just cannot see into it.’  The flat black prevents the viewer from perceiving any background at all, which ultimately prompts a contextualizing of the piece for oneself.  Even when it’s so sunny that a the eye perceives an open barn door as pitch black, the mind is aware that there is something within.  Consider the expressionless quality of these probing faces – “Neutral expressions tend to be more complex,” Miller explains to me, “You think you’re getting rid of expression but really you’re adding to it.”  By removing all recognizable emotional cues, the portraits force the viewer to look deeper, to concoct their own perceptions of the figure’s perplexing demeanor.  And this is completely encouraged by Miller – the more the viewer subconsciously adds to the work, the less relevant is its status of pure “self-portraiture.”

When I ask the artist what made him start painting portraits he cites the influence of a specific teacher from college.  She was a figure painter, and featured heavily in his decision to “do the highest ideal thing.”  He speaks to his moment of realization: “Just because my blue collar background didn’t take [my painting] seriously, or thought it was a hobby didn’t mean that I had to.” For Matthew Miller coming from a rural childhood, the classical figure painting represents a certain seriousness and the ideal of an artistic world that he hadn’t always presumed access to.  No one can deny that these are serious works; many have likened them to Old Master paintings, so concentrated is their dramatic intensity and dark, brooding effect.  “The human quality is it’s slight weirdness,” says Miller of his artistic style, a weirdness that he is just starting to admit to himself – “in a good way.”

Are we to expect more of the same from Miller in the future or will he decide to take another direction?  The artist believes that he will always have a self-portrait going, more or less just to practice.  They take around six months to create, though he works on two or three at a time.  These portraits are unique in that they don’t stay static – they shift, they grow and expand as he returns to the piece every few days to redo a shape or a certain black outline.  Ultimately the artist himself doesn’t know what to expect.  “I always want my work to take me down a rabbit hole,” he says, “hopefully my work in this show will drag me to somewhere I never expected to be.”  The proverbial rabbit hole is a good metaphor for these works in which the viewer is both granted and denied access to context, to emotionality, and forced to create their own.  “Maybe there will be lots more self portraits,” the artist muses, “maybe there will never be another one.”

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Immediate Release

Matthew MillerCan’t You See It, I Am One

October 16 – November 22, 2014 Opening Reception: Thursday, October 16, 6-8pm

Artist Talk: Saturday, November 15, 2014, 4pm

Matthew Miller, studio view, 2014

Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia presents Matthew Miller’s solo exhibition of new work. Portraiture and self-portrayal are the subject matter of Miller’s paintings. Miller’s figures have an intricate gaze. They fix their eyes on the viewer but they also reveal the artist’s method: looking into the mirror at himself in the act of seeing himself see.

Miller furthers his method by including the tools of his creation in the paintings. In one portrait, the artist poses with his brush. In another portrait, he poses with a chisel and an uncompleted wooden sculpture. (The image recalls El Greco’s Portrait of a Sculptor, 1576-1578.)

El Greco ‘Portrait of a Sculptor’

The artist’s torso is understated, softening the figure’s masculinity. Miller does not sexualize or heroicize the figure’s physique; instead, the figure appears to be emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. Miller’s paintings thus intensify the reflexivity of conventional self-portraiture. Miller paints the archetypal artist caught in the vulnerable performance of painting.

Matthew Miller was raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in a Mennonite family, and lives and works in New York. His work has been the subject of two solo exhibitions: Fools Are Those Who Lose Their Mirrors, Pocket Utopia, New York, 2013, and The Magic Black of an Open Barn Door on a Really Sunny Summer Day When You Just Cannot See Into It, Famous Accountants, New York, 2011. His work has been reviewed in The New York TimesThe Brooklyn RailThe New Criterion, ArtNews and ArtNet. He earned his MFA at the New York Academy of Art, New York, in 2008, and his BA at Messiah College, Grantham, PA, in 2004.

Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia is located at 511 w. 22nd Street, NYC. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 6pm and by appointment.

For further information or visuals please call Austin Thomas at 212-729-3011 or visit www.pocketutopia.com

© 2014 Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia | 511 West 22nd Street New York NY 10011 212-729-3011

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It’s my first week working at the newly merged Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia here in Chelsea and I’m diving headfirst into the distorted, helter-skelter collages of Ellen Letcher’s current show Gaslight.  To give myself some context, I first delved into the background of the show’s title – that is, the 1944 mystery film of the same name, in which a man goes to extreme lengths to convince his new wife that her sanity is slipping away from her.  It is a chilling film, and in many ways creates a comparable atmosphere to that which is evoked by viewing Letcher’s eerie, juxtaposed images.  As the film progresses the villain uses a series of manipulative psychological tactics to destabilize the young woman’s grasp on reality, forcing her to doubt her own cognitive processes and believe that she is imagining things, like the noises in the attic and the dimming of the gas lamp in her bedroom.

As it turns out, the term “gas-lighting” derives from this very film, used in clinical studies to refer to a form of abuse in which the victim is systematically fed false information until they come to doubt their own thoughts and perceptions.  So what does this have to do with Ellen Letcher’s work?  Once a production designer for fashion magazines, Letcher composes her works using images torn straight from the veneer-coated pages in such publications as she used to help create.  Letcher, it seems, asks her viewers to be aware of the psychological manipulations that we all undergo at the hands of the media.  I was drawn to one piece in particular, a pseudo-diptych showing a rectangular image of a woman in a jeweled dress across from a space its equal in size and shape but with only a blank space contained within.

In a 2012 article for the Wall Street Journal, James Panero wrote of the artist’s process – “She [moves] her images around, leaving behind outlines where the pictures used to be.” It is this use of negative space that most intrigues me.  The headless woman in her dazzling dress is not the whole story; there is a deeper and more troubling space – a vacancy – left in its wake.  In the film, the tactics of the abusive husband rely on the ability to make his wife believe above all else that there is something deeply and inherently wrong with her.  Does not the fashion industry operate on precisely these principles?  Flipping through the pages of a magazine, we are intensely aware that we are not the woman in the sparkling dress, and furthermore that we now want to be.  We are shown flaws that we didn’t know we had, and are mindlessly driven to correct them.  Showing the public what they lack is the lifeblood of consumer media.

The trend in Letcher’s work of headless or otherwise fragmented women highlights the superficiality of the mass-produced image.  The woman in the sparkling dress is not real; she is a figment of our own imagination as introduced by the infringing ideologies of the image-maker.  The real woman is the blank space left behind after the image has left its impression on her.  One of the most chilling pieces in the collection has lost the original image altogether, although its outlines are still visible.  We do not lose the image when we close the pages of a magazine.  Its impact stays with us, shows us what we had not seen before, and makes us doubt our own sense of self.  Ellen asks us not to believe what we are told, and to recognize that we are all victims of “gas-lighting” at the hands of the media.

~Eleanor Ling

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