GO:Curate Presents: Lori Ellison + Elsie Kagan


This is the first exhibition under the auspices of GO:Curate, a curatorial program created by critic and curator Sarah Schmerler in response to the Brooklyn Museum’s recent GO!: Brooklyn open-studio event. Schmerler chose two Brooklyn artists, Lori Ellison and Elsie Kagan, whom she felt merited exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Gallery of Feminist Art, were such space made available.


Curating is an art — and in my opinion, an important creative endeavor that was silently passed over by the Brooklyn Museum’s 2012 “GO!” initiative. Though strong in former years in the field of contemporary curatorship, the BM is now resorting the harvesting of statistics via crowd sourcing, winnowing this data down to create programming, and passing it off as an opportunity for contemporary practitioners. Studio doors were opened, but the door to a larger ‘Conversation’ — one that will actually sustain these artists — needs to be kept open as well.

I asked myself: Whom would I recommend the Brooklyn Museum exhibit — and collect — if I had access to its space, power, audience?

More about the artists:

Lori Ellison makes labor-intensive paintings and drawings that deliver far more optical impact and psychological resonance than you’d expect from small-scale work. But power comes in small packages. Her drawings are executed in ballpoint pen on paper; her paintings in gouache, their palette restricted to color-wheel-perfect monochromes of repeating geometric shapes (royal blue triangles, cadmium red squares, thalo green dots, orange triangles, etc.) wrought on lighter, tonally consistent fields. No matter what her medium, however, Ellison’s works always pulsate with a life of their own from edge to edge, like webs or nets of living, organic data.

Lori Ellison’s work appears courtesy of her gallery, McKenzie Fine Art.

Elsie Kagan, who hails from Berkeley, CA, moved to New York in 2005. She studied painting at Tyler School of Art (MFA) and Wesleyan (BFA). Highly influenced by the Baroque ceiling paintings she observed while spending her grad school year abroad in Rome, Kagan reaches, in her own work, for a similar sense of drama and sensuous physicality — albeit updated to a contemporary painting language that embraces surface drip and gesture. Part Ab-Ex bravura, part old-school atelier, Kagan’s paintings ‘foreshorten’ formalistic concerns from art history’s past and contemporary painting’s present.

Kagan’s most recent works (on exhibit here) are square-format landscapes in which she manages to subsume both her love for the light of Northern European painting (Jacob van Ruisdael, Rubens) and the passing of the seasons outside her studio window. Kagan works in Gowanus, Brooklyn.


Lori Ellison, Untitled, Gouache on Panel, 2012 (Lori Ellison is represented by McKenzie Fine Art Elsie Kagan, “Full and By,” Oil on Canvas, 2012

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