The Map Man: Loren Munk at Lesley Heller
Loren Munk: Location, Location, Location, Mapping the New York Art World at Leslie Heller Workspace
September 7 – October 16, 2011
54 Orchard St, between Hester and Grand
New York City, 212 410 6120
Loren Munk’s paintings constitute a borough-based history of art. They are diagrammatic representations of New York neighborhoods that chart, plot and intermingle the locations of artists and galleries, past and present, giving equal company to those who had enjoyed conspicuous recognition and those who have been largely overlooked. These painting impress upon the viewer how little is known or preserved about the social, personal side of art history. Like historical or canonical accounts, no painting is truly, objectively comprehensive or definitive. Munk’s artistic, social and geographic networks reflect his own personal movements through the city, and his ongoing research into the New York-based contemporary art community and its history.
Applying heavy, brightly colored paint, Munk layers dense clusters of research culled from diverse sources, whether historical texts or his personal interactions in the current scene. Revising and editing on the canvas, he lists artist names and addresses, establishing loose and unexpected associations and a compressed sense of time—for example, oftentimes Munk places a well-known artist next to a lesser-known artist who lived generations apart. He decentralizes a singular institutional or art historical narrative, if one has existed. In What Manhattan Makes, Brooklyn Takes (2004-6), you observe that Dorothy Miller (MoMA’s first curator), Tom Wesselman and Lee Krasner all at one time lived within a three-block span on East 9th Street in Manhattan. Through the compression of conceptual and cartographical space, Thomas Nozkowski’s Hester Street and April Gornik and Eric Fischl’s Greene Street addresses appear adjacently, even though geographically separated by roughly one mile and two neighborhoods.
The more time I have spent with this selection of paintings, the more curious I am about the significance of repeated artists for Munk: Donald Judd, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Pat Passlof and April Gornik/Eric Fischl, to name a few, all caught my eye a few times across a suite of nine paintings. Based on conversations I’ve had with Munk— in his studio and at art openings)— Donald Judd is one artist in particular whose work, writing and life have influenced him. Like Judd who helped shape with his writings what became known as the Minimalist movement, Munk is melding in his paintings his personal aesthetic and art historical perspective , advocating both the present and the past.
Supporting the social and anthropological interests in Munk’s paintings are his unflagging YouTube reports on the art scene, presented under the pseudonym James Kalm. For nearly a decade, again as Kalm, in his column “Brooklyn Dispatches” at The Brooklyn Rail, he has chronicled the coalescence (and recently self-declared dissolution) of the Williamsburg neighborhood renaissance of artists and galleries. Munk/Kalm’s kaleidoscopic dissection in multiple media call attention to ways in which arts communities are built, function, migrate and fall apart—and how they intertwine with social, political and economic agendas in their endemic communities.
Loren Munk’s paintings do not clinch or declare any final art historical pronouncements, but rather allow these associations, opportunity for modification, adjustment and reconsideration. I can imagine him easily adding more entries on these paintings at any time in the future. These additions would only enrich the paintings further, adding more layers of history and narrative until no more pictorial space remains because a painting by Loren Munk, like the record of history, is in constant state of revision.