The Hartford Courant
Dancing was Allison Schulnik's first love. She did it as a child but then gave it up. But when she went to art school, she found a way to dance again.
"Animation is the perfect marriage of dancing and painting," she said.
Schulnik rejected contemporary trends in computer animation in favor of experimental stop-motion claymation, which conveyed balletic movement the way she wanted, and appealed to her sense of texture.
It's time-consuming but satisfying. "I have to set up all the figures and shoot a frame, and then move them all and shoot another frame," she said. Film goes at 24 frames per second. It takes about a year for Schulnik to make a five-minute film, working mostly alone.
Schulnik's films "Mound" and "Eager" are mesmerizing, combining anthromorphic flowers, misshapen animals, macabre characters who have no faces or whose faces morph into different shapes and objects, and moody music. Hieronymous Bosch is one artist whom she admires and who influenced her, and it shows.
An exhibit of Schulnik's work is displayed in the MATRIX gallery at Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford through May 4.
Schulnik carefully plans out the storyboarding and animatics, but when she begins to make the film, she leaves things loose. "I want an organic, freeform ballet," she said.
The exhibit features the two films, in addition to porcelain sculptures, drawings, gouaches and paintings inspired by the same aesthetic. To display them, the MATRIX gallery has been transformed into a space resembling an old-fashioned parlor. Picture a granny with avant-garde tastes. Schulnik painted the wallpapery pattern on the tan-and-red walls herself. She chose ornate sculpture pedestals and picture frames from the Atheneum's collection, which are intentionally left dusty and even chipped.
"They were walking me around the museum and I saw these pedestals and I loved them. I said 'can I have them?' " she said. "So they found me more." She added that they reminded her of a scene in the 1985 movie "Return to Oz," in which Dorothy enters a parlor filled with unusual objects on ornate pedestals.
The unusual objects — a purple cat that looks like an opossum, a white fox, gnomes, a golden bear, shells — sit outside the video projection area, which is blocked off from the gallery by a sumptuous gold-fringed red curtain borrowed from Hartford Stage. "I'm creating a sanctuary for the characters in the film," she said. "They are the guards protecting the theater space."
Patti Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art, said Schulnik's show kicks off a four-part series of MATRIX works by Los Angeles artists. Ruben Ochoa opens on June 5, Frohawk Two Feathers on Oct. 2, and Michael McMillen early next year.
ALLISON SCHULNIK: MATRIX 168 will be at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St. in Hartford, until May 4. Details, hours and admission:www.thewadsworth.org.
12 décembre 2013
Quatre galeries montréalaises racontent leur expérience dans la jungle de la foire Art Basel Miami
Supermarché de l’art où le pire côtoie le meilleur, Art Basel Miami accueillait cette année quatre galeries montréalaises. Le Devoir est allé à leur rencontre afin de voir comment elles arrivent (continued in pdf)
March 2, 2013
Allison Schulnik's artworks depict a cast of mangled outsiders that exist somewhere between the circus and the cemetery. If the sugary story lines of bedtime tales morphed into twisted nightmares overnight, we imagine the result would resemble Schulnik's visceral concoctions.
Through paintings, sculptures and animated films, Schulnik creates alternate worlds where skeletons appear to be built of frosting and worn flesh drips off the bone like overcooked meat. Hobos, wizards and questionable clowns are as suspicious as they are pathetic. Yet the leading character in most of Schulnik's works is the material itself, paint layered on in so much excess it acquires a life of its own. Whether the gobs of paint brings Schulnik's subjects to life or devours them whole remains in question, yet it's nearly impossible to imagine Schulnik's hopeless creatures in any state besides this slow-moving goop.
For her first museum exhibition "ex•pose," Schulnik presents a selection of her most disarming works along with her three animated films "Hobo Clown" (2008), "Forest" (2009) and "Mound" (2011). In anticipation of the exhibition we reached out to Schulnik to learn more about her process and life outside her work.
Huffington Post: How has growing up and working in California affected your work? Would you consider living somewhere else?
Allison Schulnik: I love California. I always wanted to move around more. I love traveling and exploring new places. I just never really found anywhere better to live. It's really the perfect place for me to work and be. Los Angeles in particular has the perfect blend of solitude, space and community and I love it here.
HP: Many of your characters recall rotting childhood figures, from clowns to mermaids to kittens. Were these repeated subjects present in your childhood imagination?
AS: Yes, probably like most children. I don't know if anything is rotting, but I guess there's some decomposition of some kind. Maybe a little festering sometimes, a little tarring and feathering other times. However, I am unashamedly sentimental and hope to be celebrating them at the same time. I try to provide hope and understanding for the characters I'm working with. Yes, I'm probably a little stunted in my development. I like fantasy and make-believe, but I guess because I am no longer a child, I've been told, some reality seeps in.
HP: What are you obsessing over outside of work?
AS: Gardening. I love planting stuff, but then I have trouble with the upkeep. I planted a big garden recently. Someone (you know who you are) told me it looked like a plant monster barfed everywhere. Okay, so it's a little frantic and overwhelming. Just a bunch of plants that don't really go well together I crammed in, not taking into account their contrasting watering needs and soil requirements. Now with the addition of a mountain of weeds from the rain, hundreds of mushrooms that grew out of nowhere, thousands of leaves from the big, now naked fig tree, it's a big obsessive heap of horticulture. They'll probably all just die. I tend to overdo it sometimes.
HP: You've mentioned your short attention span. What is your advice for artists who over-procrastinate?
AS: If you're not working enough, then work more. If you're working too much, then take a break. Surround yourself with inspiring people who care about you. Cycle between stuff. And realize sometimes procrastination is good and necessary.
Schulnik's "ex•pose" will show at the Laguna Art Museum until April 28.
May 26, 2012
Allison Schulnik's "Salty Air" Brings Mermaids And Scallywags To Mark Moore Gallery
Posted: 05/26/2012 9:06 am Updated: 05/26/2012 9:06 am
Mark Moore Gallery describes Allison Schulnik's paintings as "distinctively textured," which may be the understatement of the year. Schulnik's painted outcasts are more stuff than substance, their insides oozing out and dripping all over like a melting ice cream cone. Yet even through the heavily slathered paint the dark psychology and pure(ish) hearts of her lovable losers shine through.
Her last exhibition gave dignity and depth to hobo clowns, and now Schulnik is setting her sights seaward. "Salty Air" draws upon the story of "The Little Mermaid," both the Disney version and the darker Hans Christian Anderson counterpart. (If you aren't familiar with the original fairy tale, Eric and Ariel do not end up wed happily ever after. Instead Ariel, heartbroken, throws herself into the sea and her body dissolves into foam.)
If the story wasn't already horrifying, Schulnik takes it there no problem. Sebastian, Disney's friendly French lobster, looks like a demonic ringleader in disguise, and if you don't recognize Flounder you may find him by his alternate title, "fish head." The captain and crew appear smothered in darkness and crawling with stray cats. Tattered jeans and skeletal toes are far less haggardly than their faces, eroding with neon wrinkles. These sailors don't look all that different from last year's hobo clowns, making us wonder if there really ever was a boat at all...
Yet most frightening of all may be Ariel herself, who is given legs by an evil queen in exchange for her tongue. Some of the paintings depict Ariel's nude human body, legs spread wide, against an ornamental backdrop. Yet her splayed-open genitals are a far more comforting, less shocking sight than her mutilated face, reminiscent of a screaming voodoo doll.
The crew of crusty scallywags and doomed heroines offer the perfect opportunity for Schulnik to do her thing, making the strange stranger. Yet in the end Ariel's narrative gets lost in Schulnik's gobs of pigment; rather than telling their tale it is as if the is keeping the characters hostage. More than creating her own style, Schulnik has created her own medium. And that is why she is one of the most promising artists to watch today.
New York Times
December 15, 2011
By Ken Johnson
516 West 20th Street, Chelsea
Animators are sorcerers. As Allison Schulnik demonstrates in her wonderful stop-action video “Mound,” the thrill of old-fashioned animation — unlike purely digital animation — is in the apparently supernatural quickening of ordinarily inert stuff.
In this 4 minute 20 second video, dozens of lumpy, ghoulish figures — crudely made mostly of clay, fabric, feathers and other materials — dance, gesture and undergo all sorts of changes to the heart-tugging sound of “It’s Raining Today,” a 1969 recording byScott Walker. The clay, which is mainly white but with color marbled into it, is in constant motion, as if imbued with a manic agency of its own, apart from the figures and objects it represents.
Eyes open into scary hollows and then close into doughy bulges. Mushrooms turn inside out and morph into diverse species. Near the end, a troupe of long-haired ballerinas in cloth dresses performs a mournful, synchronized choreography.
Eight months in the making by Ms. Schulnik, who studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts, the film requires multiple viewings to appreciate its extraordinarily detailed invention.
Ms. Schulnik extends her animating ways into oleaginous, heavily impastoed paintings of gross, spectral figures and vibrant, gone-to-seed floral bouquets that call to mind the comic-grotesque visionary James Ensor.
She makes ceramic sculptures, too, including a life-size representation of a scrawny white cat standing on its hind legs, its missing eyes affording a glimpse of darkness within. The nonmoving works are less exciting than the video, but the show as a whole casts a witchy spell.
Time Out New York
November 9, 2011
Review: Allison Schulnik, "Mound"Kitschy subjects turn into meditations on decay.
By Jennifer Coates
When I walked into Allison Schulnik's show on a drizzly afternoon and heard "It's Raining Today" by Scott Walker, the late-'60s pop-star-turned-recluse, the melodramatic voice filling the gallery suddenly gave the irritating weather a certain existential pathos. The tune wafts from the titular stop-animation video projected on a wall, the centerpiece of Schulnik's latest outing, which also includes several paintings and small ceramic sculptures. The film features, among other things, a choreographed dance by hunched-over witches, and various sad clowns mutating into twisted lumps of clay.
But it is the paintings that steal the show. Flower Mound, a huge diptych, depicts another sad clown, as well as a few stray animals subsumed by a hillock of blossoms, each appearing to revel in its bulbous swelling and material squishiness. The radiant heap is shrouded in darkness, evoking menace as the figures disappear into it. On another canvas, a vase filled with drooping flowers sits in sodden whiteness. The focal point, a raw, red bloom, looks like an organ or a tumor. The potentially decorative subject turns metaphysical: a meditation on death and disintegration.
Schulnik squeezes out paint, playing with it in a comic and childlike affirmation of the transformative potential of colored goo. Piles of glossy pigment take on the quality of relief sculpture. Color is troweled on almost as a kind of protection—for pets hiding in the clumps, or for clowns who mask their true identities behind ever-thickening layers of makeup. But the exaggerated physicality of Schulnik's paintings also, curiously, lends them a sense of vulnerability, as if each form or character is saying, "I can't help what I am."
January 13, 2010
Allison Schulnik can be called a traditional painter. She approaches all the age-old varieties of representational painting in her practice, using her own particular style to articulate this gamut of long-established modes: still lives, portraiture, landscape. Each show seems to trot out multiple examples of each. But a few themes emerge – the lovable clown or hobo (think of classic clown painting with the poor prankster losing the patch off his coat and you’ll see what I mean), puffed out and distorted smudgy animals, flowers, and bucolic scenes tinged with blotted grotesqueries.
The drippy playfulness of Schulnik’s paint readily fits the metaphor of the wayward hobo, kind and generous however lacking in purpose or home. It is difficult to find a deeper narrative impulse or reasonable content trajectory for Schulnik’s work – though arguably, some artists use this as the whole point of their wholly successful work, always trying to remain elusive, mysterious, hard-to-get. But I am not so sure Schulnik is being quite so coy– this hobo-ish painting can be as difficult to track as its metaphorical namesake. There are certainly points in the process of looking that I desperately wished for her to elaborate, if only a little bit more.
One such point is Rug Girl, 2009, an absolutely chilling painting of a woman suggestively splayed on an irregular rug. The white, creamy hues that Schulnik employs are devastating (recalling a horror that transcends night and emerges quite comfortably in the daytime) and the composition, off beat and ramshackle, gives the canvas a raw, patchwork feel. This is a great painting, turning sex into a horror of coded, perhaps satanic pictograms and orifices rising up to bite and mar the suitor. This is the trauma of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, fully implicating the viewer as the predator and the prey of the awful (and awfully captivating) scenario.
But that’s all. You cannot go to other canvases to get more of a sense of Schulnik’s stake in these matters. The painting seems a one off, albeit a clever one. Home for Hobo, 2009 is another such effort, doing for Currier & Ives what Rug Girl does for Picasso. The white splashes and milky passages create a whirling scene of Americana laced with little hobos on the fringe warming themselves or lollygagging on ice. It is a complex, fascinating effort, almost as though Schulnik “Schulnikified” a holiday card. The pleasure of the piece goes without saying, but the proceedings lack of ultimate purpose left me wanting.
In the end, I wondered if Schulnik’s lack of a deeper well for her work is why writers love to burst with references, referring to Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Emil Nolde, and Vincent Van Gogh when they write about the work. It might be that critics, faced with something they think is of value and Schulnik is certainly a good painter, simply push historical precedent and use these flashpoints as a crutch for meaning. I, however, want more from Schulnik and with such immense talent it doesn’t seen unfair to ask as it seems she can give more. I know I will wait around to see it, but I haven’t seen it yet.
- Ed Schad
By Tom Christie Wed., Nov. 18 2009 at 9:50 AM
Allison Schulnik is an L.A.-based artist known primarily for her self-described "goopy" oil paintings of clowns or hoboes or vaguely yeti-like creatures. They're kind of multi-colored Bondo meets the nether-spiritworld. But Schulnik, who was one of the artists in theWeekly's "Some Paintings" show a couple of years back, is an animator and filmmaker, too. Her latest project is an arresting, beautiful, lovingly weird video for the Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear, "Ready, Able."
Schulnik comes from an arty San Diego family (mom, aunt, uncle are painters; dad is an architect; cousin a cartoonist) and studied claymation in the experimental animation program under Jules Engel at CalArts. Following graduation she worked for several years for commercial animation studios, waiting for a fine art break; she kept painting. The break came with a call from Black Dragon Society, and then New York's Bellwether Gallery, before she "settled with" Mark Moore Gallery in 2007.
"I was selling the whole time. But I still wasn't convinced it was really a possibility to be an artist and make enough to not have to work also, because really it's not a 'career' and shouldn't be. I didn't want to have to make money from my art making, so I waited to quit until it seemed I could. I'm all about not gaining any responsibilities like house, nice car, children, etc., so when the shit hits the fan, which seems to happen to most young artists, I'll be ready - all saved up."
A couple of years ago, Schulnik made a short film called Hobo Clown, for which she hoped to use a song by the Brooklyn-based band Grizzly Bear. She sent the film to the band, who loved it, said yes to her using their song, then asked if she would make their next video. Schulnik already had an idea for a new film in the works, and when she heard their new song, "Ready, Able," it seemed a good fit. Three or four months later, after gathering natural materials from the woods around Big Bear to create the set, and other set-stuff from the railroad tracks around her studio, and making endless, time-consuming changes to her clay...
"Animation is 24 frames a second," she tells me. "I was working on what animators call one's and two's. So I actually did an average of about 18 frames/second. I think I animated about 8 minutes, cut it down to 4:30. So I sculpted around 9,000 frames."
"It was tough. I decided to have a lake, which was made from hair gel. I had to sculpt it along with everything else for every frame. It added a lot of back pain into the mix.
"I work relatively fast. But I think I probably did 12-hour days, 7 days a week, for a good 9 weeks straight. That's just the animation part.
"You go into this zone, there's nothing like it. You're in a little black room all by yourself (although I had the lighting wiz/genius and friend Helder King Sun, who is an amazing filmmaker in his own right, come in a few times a week and create the lighting for the set.) But besides that you are alone in the dark for hours and hours in this little mini-world that you created and have complete control over. It's complete escapism. I love it. And when you see the result, it's magic."
No argument here. "Ready, Able" the video is arresting, beautiful, lovingly weird. See for yourself:
Art in America
March 1, 2009
One thing you can say for Allison Schulnik: she’s seriously into paint. The young L.A. artist’s New York solo debut included 13 canvases, nearly all dated 2008, on which she mounds her oils like cupcake icing. Great gobs bedeck her curdled, very funny riffs on the portrait, still life and landscape genres. “Impasto” is an insufficient term; School of London paintslingers like Leon Kossof and Frank Auerbach look timid in comparison.
Schulnik is also into lowbrow taste, to judge from the mawkish conventions of her pathetic portraits. Hobo Clown #3 is one of several paintings depicting a down-at-the-heels jester of uncertain gender who sports a striped muffler, flowered bowler and enormous boutonniere. An adoring little terrier is this lonesome soul’s sole companion in a desolate world beneath a dark cloud. Neurosis yields to psychosis in the 6-foot-high Big Hobo Clown Head, an extreme closeup in which meaty blossoms and death-mask greasepaint meld in over-the-top paint application.
The pinup tradition turns toxic in Girl with Animal #2, in which a bodacious, wide-mouthed blonde assumes the slinky squat of a sexual predator and offers her rosy ass to the crouching tiger behind her; both creatures regard the viewer with something like alarm. Flowers for Hobo Clown #1 is a tousled bouquet studded with alizarin, vermilion and bubble-gum pink, crinkled clots and dried-up goo. Proving that she can do understatement, too, the artist sneaks in a few oblique streaks of gray at the bottom of the painting, establishing the vase’s cast shadow on the tabletop and rooting the object in illusionistic space. It’s a Manet moment in a body of work that owes more to Nolde and Ensor.
Also on view were eight smallish glazed ceramic sculptures, many of which rested on the floor. Some might be auditioning superheroes: though grotesquely low-waisted, Gold Green Man is massively muscled and prodigiously endowed; 1/3 Gold Nipple Man seems to have sunk into the floor up to his pectorals. Early evidence of Schulnik’s interest in the comparative morphology of face and flower was present in Hobo Clown,a 31⁄2-minute claymation video from 2000. The subject, perhaps a distant cousin of Walter Williams’s long-suffering Mr. Bill, invites disaster by gathering wildflowers. Like her near-contemporaries Jim Drain and Rosson Crow, flamboyant artists with goth/romantic inclinations and a flair for the ironically uncouth, Schulnik has set her career off to an auspicious start. How long she can retool kitsch at this fever pitch is another question, but for the moment her light burns bright.