Greta Waller: One Item or Less @ David Salow

Greta Waller: One Item or Less
March 28 - May 2
David Salow Gallery

@ UCLA open studios HERE

Maybe you can help me solve this mystery. I normally would not think twice about shows like this but I got drawn in starting at the UCLA open studios where Waller, in a formal black dress amidst her studio's traditional still life setup with bowls of fruit and easel out for painting demos, seemed totally serious about her little landscapes and food paintings. Me, being completely immersed in conceptual/philosophical readings and questioning the whole influx of MFA'ers was taken aback when I was told by another UCLA student, that yes, she is completely serious (no Bob Ross puns here) about her painting and that UCLA is hopped up on the "return of painting."
Which brings me to the curiosity to traffic the Chinatown opening Saturday. Based on the works, many the same from her studio, I am still holding a smirky, curled lip and raised eyebrow. Despite the subject matter, which is inconsequential, the execution isn't expressive or gestural yet knowingly falls short of realism in a way that makes me lose gaze and think of local art fairs but according to her statement is deliberate (from what I can tell). Diving in further, some of the canvases are buckling and a couple hang off the wall at an angle. This criticism seems fair because I didn't see any signs that imperfections in the display or execution are beneficial to the overall concept. (Are they even intentional?) Reading that Greta's focus is on the act of preserving the practice of this particular form of painting and simultaneously comparing it to the Èpuration period (when France was on trial after the war) I cannot help but be confused. I am having a hard time believing the truth/intent of the artist message. If the paintings (and her website) are a type of commentary on the joy of painting, I am ready to move on.

From artist website:
"...The purging act of my painting is emblematic of a fear of being persecuted for realism. The repetition and stillness of the paintings could be simulacrums for a multitude of conceptions such as global warming, current fast paced society, but this is not the case. For me, recognition is repetition. I am using recognition as a catalyst for innovation in my technique and to persevere in this genre of painting. It is important in my work to display both honesty and a true love for the act of painting while acquiring a balance in between the illusion of painting and the paint itself..."


Joe said...

I like this post. Translucent, melting, drippy, meaty, fleshy and the textural..but done so blandly. That meat could be pulsating, instead it looks iceboxed. I think your critique is fair. Canvas pliers are cheap, those canvases make me cringe.

Anonymous said...

These paintings reminded me of Manet's still lifes, or Wayne Thiebaud's, and by that I mean they reminded me of how some painters can convey objecthood while retaining "painterliness," and how that's about the most compelling aspect of realism left these days.

She doesn't have it--is that what you mean? The chicken with its puckered asshole on the flowered tablecloth almost gets there, at least in reproduction.

"...a true love for the act of painting..." We always hurt the ones we love, don't we?

Anonymous said...

Can can only describe this work as sophomoric, and her stance as fraudulent, or extremely naive . I love the corner shot of the crumpled canvas.

Anonymous said...

lets not confuse representational painting with realism... realism can aspire in a philosophical manner to answer the fundamental questions such as, can we directly perceive reality? or are our perceptions merely representations signs and symbols of an unobservable reality?
-formally, yes the teetering balance between painterly abstraction and representation always proves to be an exciting element.

I think Greta employs the mannerisms of nineteenth century realists, such as Manet , but natura morte was only one in many motifs and were probably done for there own sake, an end in themselves. In this way, I think Greta is paying homage.
Yet, it seems from her statement that she is assuming a defensive posture;asserting the right for representational painting to exist in a post modern context. This, to me, sounds like a personal struggle, and perhaps a self made one, but not one that requires a defense and certainly not a problem that the paintings aim to solve. Maybe it is only the lack of such an aim, that the paintings stand in for.

I think the above criticism is due, although, I think this painter is incredibly talented and prolific...
perhaps this solo show is just premature?

Anonymous said...

I ate at Panera Bread this afternoon and wondered where they got all the mediocre paintings of breads and pastries.

Anonymous said...

Mean spirited and petty criticism. Taking an art student to task for not having perfectly squared corners? C'm on. Look at the work, and talk about it on its on merits; unarch your eyebrow, dispense with the facile put-downs and really attempt to write cogently on art. Or just stick to petty musings on fashion, which seem more your forte.

Prolix Thesaurus said...

holy hypocrisy anon-man! That was a verbose and cruel reaction to a fair critique.

minny said...

i'm just tired of seeing paintings of meat. but aside from that, i won't go as far to say the paintings are "sophomoric," but there is definitely something lacking in her approach, or her afterthought-like approach, to the work. she is a student after all, a first year, i think

unlike manet however, these paintings seem quite facile and she's not really living up to the claim of "innovation through recognition."

Anonymous said...

I like paintings.

Ash said...

You art fags need to get your heads out of your asses/rah-rah philosophical books about the deconstruction of deconstruction. Waller's paintings are fucking good, and if you say otherwise you don't belong in any intelligent discourse about painting; maybe if some of you spent more time actually painting and less time over analyzing shit and pontificating over your fucking iBooks in coffeeshops you'd be able to appreciate one person's earnest, pure devotion to what is physically and visually enjoyable about painting.

God damn it you bastards make me fucking sick with your need for concept. Everything has to mean something to you shitheads. Well guess what retards THAT AIN'T REALITY.

I am so sick of you people who want to tear down what is, despite your misspent and pretentious existence, good and worthwhile painting. Fuck all of you, you probably couldn't paint a tit if I tied your hand to a goddamn robotic arm.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


what, is this the Bush Administration's version of a critique? YOU ARE EITHER WITH US, OR AGAINST US!

peggy said...

Poke around and see if you can find some of the canvases from Gretchen's first post grad show at Umbrella Gallery in the East Village.

Mysterious rooms from her stay at the PINK HOUSE a run down mansion in Conn.

Gretchen is a true eccentric, and a mighty fine painter. I can see how these recent works may not hit the mark, but if you had seen that first group you may be more in tune with what she's about.

Best not to read an artist's statement too closely unless they really are conceptual. Gretchen is a very talented painter, hope we bump into each other again before too long.

Peggy Yunque
Shape of Lies