“Beauty is Difficult,” Amy Vogel’s second exhibition at Paul Kotula Projects, continues the artist’s examination of the contradictions between nature, as physical environment, and human nature. Using painting and sculpture, Vogel constructs a situation seemingly at odds with the phenomena of natural production and assimilation. Her intimately scaled paintings — at times deafeningly and at other times quietly constructed landscapes and forests — veer in degree of abstraction. Swift, confident marks, in odd, sometimes acidic, sometimes drab shades of green, blue, yellow, grey, taupe, pink, offers varying experiences of tree-populated lands, from densely packed foliage and tree trunks to glimpses of treetops and sky, rolling streams or paths. She sites amongst these highly gestured, yet reductive paintings ‘Vase’. Real flowers sprout from a faux boulder that nestles within two floral-cut tires painted cream, pink and mint green, the whole object reading like some abject ‘DIY’ bloom; an odd sense of longing pervades.
Vogel’s new canvases are covered completely in paint and remiss of humans or the remains of their actions. This is unlike her early paintings and works on paper. In the 1990’s, Vogel’s starkly minimal works featured quick, aqueous brush marks suggesting stones, trees and plants against vast expanses of untouched paper. Within these landscapes resided tiny and delicately drawn female figures that, in the words of writer and critic Lynn Crawford, “tie up and restrain small animals in ways that hint at savagery, sexual acts, and exhausting childhood play.” In finely prepared canvases that followed, monochromatic transparent marks defined bits and pieces of the northern Michigan landscape, trunks and foliage of spindly trees predominately, but also trailers, shacks and fences. Her reductive marks penetrated and floated upon her white, plaster-like skins that now were pictured with minute, intricately drawn traps, barbed wire and hanging ropes. A pile of shiny cast zinc fire logs, like ‘Vase’ (in her current exhibition) accompanied the series.
This is the second time Vogel has used “difficulty” in the title of one of her exhibitions, the earlier one related to “kindness”. Other titles connect to such struggles, i.e.: “The Temptation to be Good” and “Inside the Outside.”
Amy Vogel’s work has been exhibited internationally. She has had solo exhibitions at Cohan, Leslie and Browne, New York; Air de Paris, Paris, Larissa Goldston, New York; Edward Mitterand, Geneva and Revolution, Detroit. Among her group exhibitions are “Wall Rockets: Contemporary Artists and Ed Ruscha,” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and “The Early Show,” White Columns, New York. Her collaborations with Joseph Grigely were exhibited at such venues as Orange County Museum of Art, Newporte Beach; Yokohama Triennial, Yokohama; Barbican Centre, London and Académie de France in Rome. Amy Vogel lives and works in Chicago. She is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Practices at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago.