John Beech, Edward Albee
Obscure/Reveal

November 6, 2008 – January 10, 2009
at Peter Blum SoHo

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee? Not Artist John Beech: Hot Art

Bloomberg
November 14, 2008

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee? Not Artist John Beech: Hot Art
By Katya Kazakina

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- New witticisms from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee are appearing in a New York art gallery, not on a Broadway stage.

An exhibition at Peter Blum in New York's Soho neighborhood marks the collaboration between Brooklyn-based artist John Beech, 44, and the octogenarian behind some of the most important American plays of the past five decades, including ``Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?''
Beech and Albee, who has collected the artist's eclectic works since 1991, teamed up on a book project two years ago: Albee provided written reactions to Beech's overpainted photographs of dumpsters, trailers, dilapidated houses and waste sites.

Sifting through 130 images, they chose 40 to appear in the resulting 2007 book, ``Obscure/Reveal,'' and the eponymous exhibition.

``So green!'' Albee exclaims about one work. ``Mustard -- English I think,'' he muses about the color partially covering another. ``Make up your mind!'' he urges in the third. ``It is what it is,'' he quips in the fourth. And so on.

``I always comment on everything,'' said Albee, who sported a bushy gray mustache and a brown leather jacket at the opening. ``This seemed like a fun thing to do.''

The artworks, measuring 17 by 11 inches each, appear as spontaneous and immediate as the titles. The artist adds drips, brushstrokes and patches of enamel paint -- occasionally enhanced by doodles with a marker or ballpoint pen -- to the color and black-and-white images.

Underpainting
In some works, the paint almost entirely obscures the image, effectively turning it into an underpainting that informs the final artwork. In others pieces, the image is central while the paint occupies a small part of the surface.

The subject matter brings to mind ``dumpster art,'' a recent trend championed by the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in lower Manhattan. But unlike many dull, visually bland examples, Beech's work manages to transform the lowbrow elements into a unique visual experience, achieving, according to one of Albee's comments, ``pure beauty.''

The artworks come with a limited edition, steel-bound copy of ``Obscure/Reveal,'' documenting the collaboration. A regular, hard-bound edition of the book is also available.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 10 at 99 Wooster St. Information: +1-212-343-0441; http://www.peterblumgallery.com.

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.