Interview with Zachary Keeting and Christopher Joy from "Gorky's Granddaughter", December, 2017


James Kalm slides in for a viewing of Joel Longenecker's latest series of paintings. In many ways this exhibition represents the current state of a type of abstract painting that is typically New York. With broad gestural strokes and a rich yet sublet color sense these paintings echo with references to landscape and create a space for unhurried reverie.

Rockslide Sky (curated by Carllen Sheehan) Fordham University, New York, NY:


Ignorance and Bliss 

Joel Longenecker is a painter who focuses on what painters always have-paint, support, scale, color, space, light, mark, shape, texture, rhythm, movement-even before modernism made materials and process subjects in themselves, and postmodernism questioned those subjects. In this exhibition, under the title Ignorance and Bliss-not to be confused with ignorance is bliss-Longenecker has clearly upped the rapture ante. These nine new paintings, a selection from the thirteen abstractions in oil that he has been working on for the past two years, are made in response to each other, one generating the other, not systemically, but with the fine intuition of an experienced artist who is at the top of his form in an exhilarating give and take with his medium. They are off-squares, large to moderate, with the vertical height exceeding the horizontal to give them a subtle uplift, since bliss connotes a certain mystic ascension, an upward drift and float, words that figure in several of his titles. Longenecker, a natural painter, is obviously at ease and obviously (still) enthralled by his medium in a relationship that appears requited.

These canvases, although some are on linen, are lighter, livelier than before. One of the central themes of the work is the "juxtaposition of its weighty materiality with a sense of levitation and lightness," the artist said. His palette-"dark forever," brightened for this project but he's not certain why. Because he does not know, however, is one of the reasons that painting intrigues him; he is always surprised by the constant occurrence of the unexpected. Composed of countless shades of colors, Longenecker's paintings can be identified by one or two dominant hues, such as tonalities of green or blue, or perhaps pink and green, a flesh-toned pink, or yellow, pink and green, but then a brilliant cerulean emerges, a tremulous streak of crimson, or a hot, dry rust brown. Then you give up sorting out the colors and let yourself just enjoy the concatenations, the overall interplay, the richness of causes and effects, the brashness and sensitivity. He confesses that he never imagined that he would "load a paintbrush with pink" but describes a de Kooning retrospective he saw in 1984 that he's never forgotten, that changed his life so perhaps pink and other pastels-ballasted by earth tones-were in
his destiny. 

Longenecker's strengths are his color combinations, and his confident brushwork that weaves, layer by layer, a complex stratum-a back story, as it were-on which the final marks triumphantly rest, coming forward like vestiges of cubist forms deconstructed, reduced to brush strokes. His compositions also suggest grids in meltdown, combining a signature balance of the expressive and the formal. As for his process, Longenecker lays down a "bed" of colors, then lets it partially dry-which can take days, if not longer. When it forms a crust, he scrapes it down so the soft inside-like wet clay-remains. This scumbled field provides resistance for his next layers as he traverses his field, repeating the process, sparring with the grit and goo, the hard and the soft. Longenecker, a hand's-on artist, is still an ardent believer in paint and in the continuing power of abstraction, with its canny, uncanny mix of the perceptual and the psychological, the rational and the emotional, independent of other references. 
Longenecker comes from a long line of farmers in Pennsylvania Dutch country-his family holds a land grant from the sons of William Penn-and he likes to compare his project to farming. Digging into wet paint is like digging into the soil, out of which things miraculously grow. "That's part of the bliss," he says. 

Lilly Wei
Lilly Wei is a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic who writes regularly for Art in America and is a contributing editor at ARTnews and Art
Asia Pacific. 


Ignorance and Bliss: Exibition Press Release

Joel Longenecker
Ignorance and Bliss
June 23 - July 30, 2007
Reception: June 23, 6 - 9

Sideshow gallery is pleased to present Ignorance and Bliss, an exhibition of paintings by Joel Longenecker, described by noted critic and curator Lilly Wei as the work of an "artist who is at the top of his form in an exhilarating give and take with his medium." 

The artist creates dense and rigorous paintings by laying down thick slabs of paint, letting them dry and crust over, scraping them down, then repeating this process again and again, much like a landscape being formed over time. He builds the structure of the paintings from the ground up, creating topographical strata. For Longenecker, scraping through the congealed paint-the consistency of mud- is like plowing through a field. Each painting is a unique ecological environment in which layers run deep and history is palpable. Paint becomes an endlessly flexible and malleable material - thin to thick, wet-on-wet, and scumbled-over-dry-revealing both the nature of paint and paint as nature.  A central theme of this work is the juxtaposition of its weighty materiality with a sense of levitation and lightness. As he wrestles with contradictory and opposing forces-growth and decay, build-up and erosion, creation and destruction, heaviness and lightness-Longenecker underscores the inherent drama of the indeterminate. 

What sets Longenecker apart is his ability to create works of intensity and powerful physical presence-works that seek a kind of transcendence in which the physical properties of pigment and oil melt away and become something else: light, air, mass, space. Longenecker says, "I work until the paint falls into its 'destined' place and becomes its own corporeal subject." The drama of that experience is his true subject.

This exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue with essay by Lilly Wei. Please contact the gallery for more information.


Shapeshifters: Cathy Nan Quinlan exhibition review
Originat text link: 

Shape Shifters: New York Painters

Peter Acheson, Katherine Bradford, Cora Cohen, Mark Dagley, Cynthia Hartling, Molly Herman, Eric Holzman, Sharon Horvath, Bill Jensen, Ben La Rocco, Margrit Lewczuk, James Little, Joel Longenecker, Chris Martin, Loren Munk, Kazimira Rachfal, Russell Roberts, Jacque Rochester, Dorothea  Rockburne, Katsuhisa Sakai, Jeanne Thomsen, Richard Temperio, Don Voisine, Thornton Willis

Sideshow Gallery
319 Bedford Avenue
718 486 8180 

April 18 to May 17, 2008 


This show is a must-see for the viewer passionate about contemporary painting. It consists of twenty-four painters, each exhibiting one piece and representing the “tip of the iceberg” in two ways: first because these are all mature artists each with a large body of work and second, because they have been selected from the large group of painters currently working in New York City.

One way of looking at the show would be to comb the gallery seeking pleasure in, or rejecting, individual paintings. However, since painters of this level of maturity and quality are so rarely shown together (sad about the Biennial), another option is to try to find out what, if anything, these artists have in common.

To begin with, the paintings have been chosen by James Biederman, who is also a fine painter. It is a pity his work is not in it, because it might provide the key to some of his choices--some, but not all, because he obviously has a roving eye-for works on canvas, that is. There is a preference for abstraction that does not preclude figuration and there is a simple statement in the catalogue emphasizing that all of these painters make their own work. (Was there ever another time when that needed to be pointed out or had the meaning that it has today?) An important aspect to this is that these artists’ works will be more varied and searching and the touch will be more important than for those that embrace mass production. 

The show is very well hung, as shows at Sideshow always are-- it makes a great deal of difference. In some instances, superficially similar works are hung next to each other, revealing how dissimilar they are. For example, Don Voisine’s Red Tide and Kazimira Rachfal’s The Polish Rider are, at first glance, both hard-edged geometric paintings, but seen next to each other, Voisine is playing wittily within the lines and Rachfal is willing the edges to evanesce into atmosphere. Though set to one side, Dorothea Rockburne falls somewhere into the abyss separating the two of them, with the aptly titled Wobblies.

Mark Dagley’ Core Belief and James Little’s Psychic are not side-by-side but are respectively the first works you see on entering each of the two rooms. They share many of the same elements; they are large scale and consist of elongated triangles of bright color with taped edges. However, Little’s work is an elaborate optical illusion with the triangles interlocking, while Dagley’s forms are drawn on to a field of raw canvas. Situated near the Dagley, Ben La Rocco and Peter Acheson, in quite different ways, also use the canvas as a field on which to draw. 

Information in the computer age is often described as accruing in bits and several painters in the show seem to use separate brushstrokes as metaphors for bytes, notably Joel Longenecker and Jeanne Thomsen working abstractly and Satsuhisa Sakai and Sharon Horvath to build figurative images. Eric Holzman might also be joined to this group and, though his work is not Impressionistic in the depiction of light, it makes one realize that the Impressionists also used the stroke of the brush in this way—to represent separate bits of received information. Related to this way of building the image are two other artists who combine simple or elaborate units, Margrit Lewczuk and Molly Herman.

Chris Martin and Thornton Willis both present a shaped canvas—although Willis’ only appears to be. Willis also builds with bricks, in this case triangles while Martin’s work, below the crudely spray painted dayglow flowers, reveals a sensitive nature similar to those of Bill Jensen and Jacque Rochester’s: they both show gentle, evocative works with a deep love of nature..

Cora Cohen and Russell Roberts’ paintings follow no other law but that in which the first stroke will be made and all the rest will follow intuitively. This is a path of great possibilities; it has all the pleasures and hazards of the open road. Katherine Bradford follows it also with the simple Horses and Piano, leaving it up to the viewer to decide how deceptive her simplicity is. This work has a great joke hovering around it—“Four horses go into a piano bar and the bartender says…”      

Richard Temperio’s Red Car in the Country contains a question asked by many others in the show although not quite as directly. A rough translation from the paint: “How can I reconcile the Ego and the Id?” In a reversal of Temperio’s painting in which one peers between gestures to discern formal structures, Cynthia Hartley floats squares on top of a quirky intuitive space.

The categories and connections mentioned here are open to question and the artists in them could be rearranged. What will the art historians of the future make of it? Or will these or other connections seem completely clear to them in some way we can’t predict?

Loren Munk is the interesting oddball of this group, or any other for that matter, and yet in the piece shown here, Greater Williamsburg, he establishes himself as connected to them all by using as his subject matter the aforementioned iceberg. It is a thickly painted map of the Williamsburg neighborhood with artists and galleries and colored lines going from the names to the street addresses, so that the historian at least will be in no doubt as to their locations.