KATHERINE HATTAM | Archibald Prize 2023 Finalist | The Guardian

27 Apr

Archibald prize 2023 finalists: Sam Neill, Archie Roach, Claudia Karvan and more – in pictures

 Kirthana Selvaraj’s painting ‘Ramesh and the blue figure with snake’, of artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSW

The 57 finalists for the 2023 Archibald prize have been revealed by the Art Gallery of NSW. Here is a selection of this year’s finalists, including portraits by Anh Do, Sarah McCloskey and Oliver Watts. The full group can be seen at the gallery’s website.

On 5 May the winning painting will be announced. The $100,000 prize is awarded to the best portrait of a person ‘distinguished in art, letters, science or politics’ painted by an Australian resident.

The finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes will be on show at AGNSW from 6 May to 3 September

Wed 26 Apr 2023 21.30 EDTLast modified on Wed 26 Apr 2023 23.54 EDT

  • Claudia (the GOAT) by Laura Jones Sitter: Claudia Karvan Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWClaudia (the GOAT) by Laura JonesSitter: Claudia Karvan
  • Seeing Ruby by Anh Do Sitter: Archie Roach Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSeeing Ruby by Anh DoSitter: Archie Roach
  • Katharine Murphy by Judith Sinnamon Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWShaKatharine Murphy by Judith Sinnamon
  • Through the window by Jaq Grantford Sitter: Noni Hazlehurst Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWThrough the window by Jaq GrantfordSitter: Noni Hazlehurst
  • Sam I Am by James Powditch Sitter: Sam Neill Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSam I Am by James PowditchSitter: Sam Neill
  • The songwriter by Michelle Hiscock Sitter: Don Walker Photograph: Jenni Carter/Image © Art Gallery of New SouthThe songwriter by Michelle HiscockSitter: Don Walker
  • Clown jewels by Andrea Huelin Sitter: Cal Wilson Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWClown jewels by Andrea Huelin Sitter: Cal Wilson
  • Echoes of a teenage superstar by Matt Adnate Sitter: Daniel Johns Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWEchoes of a teenage superstar by Matt AdnateSitter: Daniel Johns
  • Self-portrait after MD 2 by Abdul Abdullah Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSelf-portrait after MD 2 by Abdul Abdullah
  • Zoe by Kim Leutwyler Sitter: Zoe Terakes Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSZoe by Kim LeutwylerSitter: Zoe Terakes
  • Nanna Mara by Tsering Hannaford Sitter: Berry Malcolm Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWNanna Mara by Tsering HannafordSitter: Berry Malcolm
  • Heidi May, Elle Charalambu and the artist at Redleaf Pool by Oliver Watts Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWArchibald Prize 2023 finalist, Oliver Watts ‘Heidi May, Elle Charalambu and the artist at Redleaf Pool’, acrylic on canvas, 183 x 243.5 cm © the artist, image © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Jenni Carter .
  • Solomon Kammer: never enough by Alanah Ellen Brand Sitter: Solomon Kammer Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSolomon Kammer: never enough by Alanah Ellen BrandSitter: Solomon Kammer
  • The nightingale and the kookaburra by Katherine Hattam Sitter: Drusilla Modjeska Photograph: AGNSWKatherine Hattam ‘The nightingale and the kookaburra – portrait of Drusilla Modjeska’
  • Social distancing by Sarah McCloskey Sitter: Omar Musa Photograph: Jenni Carter/AGNSWSocial distancing by Sarah McCloskeySitter: Omar Musa

Available Artwork by KATHERINE HATTAM

KATHERINE HATTAM | National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

11 Apr



Free entry

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square
Level 2

View on map

Katherine Hattam
(b. 1950, Wurundjeri Country / Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Katherine Hattam works across painting, drawing, collage, printmaking and sculpture, with her practice frequently interrogating language, particularly the written word, as well as dialects of domesticity, family and the self.

Two-sided and suspended in space, Our list, 2020, continues Hattam’s practice of infusing her works with the objects and influences that have shaped her. Recent works, including this one, have been created in response to Philip Guston’s 1973 painting Pantheon, in which Guston listed a personal canon of European male painters. In Our list, Hattam rewrites the record with a new list resulting from a survey of 200 peers regarding their favourite women artists – Australian and international, living and dead. Reflecting on these works in an essay for the 2020 exhibition Katherine Hattam: The Landscape of Language, Dr Anne Norton writes:

Hattam’s Pantheon is collaborative where Guston’s was individual, and though hers refuses his implicit universalism, hers is larger, encompassing more kinds of work, more spaces, peoples and cultures. Guston’s was an avowal, it sought to settle. Hattam’s is unsettling. Guston’s list is an answer, Hattam’s list questions … Hattam reminds us of the people we do not know, the work we missed, of rents and wounds, elisions and concealments.

Hattam held her first exhibition in 1978 at Melbourne’s Ewing and George Paton Gallery, alongside Helen Frankenthaler, and has exhibited regularly ever since. Her work is held in most of Australia’s major public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Deakin and La Trobe Universities, Warrnambool Art Gallery, Monash University of Modern Art, and Bendigo Art Gallery, as well as in private and corporate collections including George Patterson, Minter Ellison, National Bank of Australia, Potter Warburg, Smorgon, the Darling Foundation and RACV. She has won the Banyule and Robert Jacks drawing prizes, and has been shortlisted in the Sulman Prize, the Dobell Drawing Prize, the National Works on Paper prize, and the Arthur Guy and Geelong Gallery painting prizes. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature and politics from the University of Melbourne (1974), an Master of Fine Art (Painting) from the Victorian College of the Arts (1992) and a PhD from Deakin University (2004).

Contact Morton Fine Art for additional information and acquisition of KATHERINE HATTAM’s “My Blue Pantheon” (see image below). http://www.mortonfineart.com

Available artwork by KATHERINE HATTAM

VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER | The Daily Cartoonist

8 Apr

Of Cartooning and Cartoonists

D. D. Degg

06 mins

Willie Ito, Michael Maslin, Vonn Sumner, Charlie Daniel, Ed Steckley, Trina Robbins, Lee Mars, Jules Rivera, more

Long time animator (1954 – 1999) who frequently dabbled in other comic arts …

I also was involved with magazine cartoons (Car-Toons magazine in the 1950s), comic strips (four episodes of the annual Disney Christmas comic strip for King Features), comic books (the five Beany and Cecil comic books 1962-1963) and doing subcontract work for other production studios.

… Willie Ito on his long career presented by Jim Korkis at Cartoon Research.

Norbert by Jerry DeFucchio and Willie Ito, a never-was comic strip © respective owners

Further reading: Lambiek Comiclopedia Willie Ito entry.

Michael Maslin has contributed “drawings” to The New Yorker since 1977 …

© Michael Maslin

One of the many things I’ve liked (alright, loved) about working for The New Yorker is the absence of pressure the magazine places on its cartoonists. The absence itself is purposeful: we (“we” being the cartoonists) are allowed complete freedom to pursue our work.

Michael describes his work habits regarding submitting cartoons to The New Yorker.

Second Nature is a curiously familiar solo exhibition of brand-new paintings on paper and canvas by artist Vonn Cummings Sumner. Familiar, that is, if you’re a follower of George Herriman’s influential comic strip character Krazy Kat and her unrequited love for brick-throwing Ignatz the Mouse.

© Vonn Cummings Sumner

Stephen Heller interviews artist Vonn Cummings Sumner for Print Mag.

That is a really interesting question. I think that has to do with the times—the difference between Modern and Postmodern, perhaps? But also it has to do with the medium: A cartoon strip has its history/language/conventions and a painting has its history/language/conventions. I hold humor very high in the hierarchy of artistic values.

It is fitting that his talents will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame ceremonies Friday, March 24, at The Foundry.

photo via the East Tennesee Writers Hall of Fame

The talent is Charlie Daniel, and prior to the honor his friend Sam Venable at Knoxville News Sentinel profiles and roasts Charlie with some rejection slips from magazines and newspapers.

Saturday Evening Post: “(Your work) is not quite suited to our needs.”

Growing up, Ed Steckley dreamed of contributing to MAD Magazine and being a part of “Saturday Night Live.” The 2018 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate achieved both goals through a varied career that he attributes to a message on the campus bulletin board.

Rube Goldberg © Jennifer George and Ed Steckley; photo: Ed Steckley

Illustrator/cartoonist/caricaturist Ed Steckley is named UW-Whitewater 2023 Distinguished Alumnus for Professional Achievement. Dave Fidlin, for UW-W, interviews Ed about the honor and his 30 year career.

Comics artist and historian Trina Robbins and cartoonist Lee Marrs were the BIG NAMES at the Cartoon Art Museum‘s Women’s Comics Marketplace earlier this month. Jules (Mark Trail) Rivera and a dozen other women cartoonists were also there.

photos via Bay City News

Marrs, a Berkeley resident, created the comic book series, “The Further Fattening Adventures of Pudge, Girl Blimp,” which was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2017, the highest honor bestowed in the comic book world.

In 1972, Robbins, a San Francisco resident, wrote and drew a short story called “Sandy Comes Out,” starring the first lesbian comic-book character outside of pornography. Shifting gears, she began drawing for DC Comics in the 1980s, and since then has authored several books and continues to write and draw comics.

Janis Mara, Bay City News, attended and talked to the cartoonists.

Available artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER

VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER | The Washington Post | Second Nature

6 Apr


In the galleries: An artist’s modern visions of a retro cartoon

Review by Mark Jenkins

March 31, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

“Krazy Pumpkin” by Vonn Cummings Sumner, included in his exhibit “Second Nature.” (Vonn Cummings Sumner/Morton Fine Art)

Seeking an everyman as a focus for his recent paintings, Vonn Cummings Sumner found a cat — or kat, as the word was spelled in George Herriman’s 1913-1944 comic strip, “Krazy Kat.” Sumner had been introduced to Herriman’s work by his teacher, noted painter Wayne Thiebaud, in the 1990s. But it wasn’t until 2020 that Sumner began painting Krazy as the bemused observer of dumpster fires both actual and metaphorical. Two years later, the California artist dispatched the cartoon feline into the great outdoors for the paintings in “Second Nature,” his latest Morton Fine Art show.

The original Krazy Kat was usually portrayed in a highly stylized version of Arizona’s Painted Desert. Summer’s recent paintings place him — or her, as Herriman declined to specify the character’s gender — in greener, more naturalistic climes. Krazy’s cartoonishness contrasts the realistically rendered grass, trees and sky, as well as animals such as the horse Krazy rides in two paintings that echo Degas equestrian sculptures. There are exceptions to this schema: In a few pictures the backdrops are flattened and streamlined in the manner of Matisse, and the most vivid canvas places a tiny Krazy in the surrealistic presence of a massive orange pumpkin with a red sun on the horizon of a fuchsia sky.

Sumner toys with Krazy’s persona, giving him a carrot for a Bugs Bunny-like prop in “What’s Up, Kat?” Yet the foreboding of the dumpster-fire paintings seems to have followed Krazy into Eden, where the cat is sometimes trailed by a snake. Perhaps the serpent’s undulating shape is just a visual echo of Krazy’s tail, which is as jagged as the cartoon lightning bolt that bisects the sky in “Krazy Storm.” In Sumner’s paintings, the symbols are open to interpretation, as they are in the work of another Herriman fan, Philip Guston. (“Second Nature” was scheduled to overlap the current Guston retrospective at the National Gallery of Art.) What’s clear, though, is that Sumner’s Krazy occupies a world that is as uneasy and off-kilter as Herriman’s.

Vonn Cummings Sumner: Second Nature Through April 8 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.

Available artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER

VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER | Art Plugged | Second Nature

6 Apr

Vonn Cummings Sumner: Second Nature


Vonn Cummings Sumner Horse and Rider, 2023

Vonn Cummings: Second Nature
March 11 – April 8, 2023
Morton Fine Art
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001

Second Nature is a solo exhibition of new paintings on paper and canvas by artist Vonn Cummings Sumner. First rendering Krazy Kat, George Herriman’s influential comic strip character during the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sumner returns to the wandering, curious avatar with Second Nature, escorting the titular figure through newly verdant, water-pooled landscapes, open spaces and art historical-coded landscapes, longing for escape and a reconnection with Nature. Genderless and endlessly depicted, Krazy Kat stands in for “everyman,” but rarely has their roaming path seemed to follow a strange inner voice that might be its own, but also Sumner’s—raising the question “who’s following who?” as both go about a grand tour of references, past and present.

Vonn Cummings: Second Nature
Krazy Storm (after Giorgione), 2023.
Oil on panel, 24 x 18 in. Courtesy of
Morton Fine Art and the artist

Second Nature finds Krazy Kat (and Sumner) on a heavy, if much-needed retreat, anxiety hanging about and lightened by the exhibition’s antithetical moments of enigma, colour and joy. Sumner’s sixth solo exhibition with the gallery, Second Nature, will be on view from March 11 – April 8, 2023 at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space (52 O St NW#302).

Introduced to Krazy Kat by his longtime mentor and friend, the late artist Wayne Thiebaud, Sumner’s character has become a fertile prompt, both for working through existential atmospheres and more painterly notions of colour, composition, control, gesture and mark-making. Where Sumner’s first body of work with Krazy Kat placed the internationalist “everyman” in horizonless, all-white backgrounds ripe with psychological references, and a subsequent 2022 exhibition watched Krazy Kat pass by inflamed trash cans and looming aerial anvils—partly a response to the time’s deep atmosphere of instability and loss—2023’s Second Nature features Krazy Kat back out in the open world, or perhaps removed from it, tramping through vivid, almost day-glo rendered deserts, forests, fields—and much of Western art history.

Returning back to colour in full force, Second Nature revives Sumner’s ongoing balancing act between “cartoon” and “painting.” Colours surge with an agency of their own, sometimes running counter to the narrative elements of the works. The graphic boldness of Night Bathers’ (2023) rectangular blue and green landscape, touched by two black trees and deep orange moon, is contrasted by the painterly chevron brushstrokes depicting waves on Krazy Kat’s bathing pool. Destabilized by colour, the work could reasonably be decoded as a night for day setting, turning the work on its head—or placing it back in a cartoon and cinematic tradition.

Vonn Cummings Sumner - Horse and Rider, 2023. Oil on canvas
Horse and Rider, 2023. Oil on canvas, 48 x 65 in. Courtesy of
Morton Fine Art and the artist

Belonging to a series of “Bather Kat” works ( River Bather, Green Bathers), these works are new explorations of acrylic paint on paper and may be read for a preoccupation with scrubbing oneself clean, particularly in the aftermath of the past few years and in light of Krazy Kat’s previous adventures with Sumner.

Reverie, 2023. Acrylic on paper, 22.5
x 30.25 in, Courtesy of Morton Fine
Art and the artist

But longer engagement with the works draws out Sumner’s expert, playful eye for form, color and history. Capturing the airy, open tactility of the beach—depicting clouds and a sandy bluff in similarly rough, scratchy applications of paint—Beach Stretch (after Cezanne) (2023) is also a sort of pun, alluding to Cezanne’s famed bathing series. Horse and Rider (2023), drawing from Edgar Degas’ series of horse sculptures, is all speed and movement, the surface paint seeming to blur in fast motion. Grass, tree and horse alike are pulled and smoothed out—except for Krazy Kat’s tail, forever jointed in a “z” shape.

Like that zig-zagging tail, Krazy Kat cuts a pensive path, inviting us to join the existential reverie found in these unfolding spaces of rich forms and loaded marks, where Sumner offers his painterly meditations.

Learn more about: Second Nature

©2023 Vonn Cummings, Morton Fine Art

Art plugged

Art Plugged is a contemporary platform inspired by a relationship with the broader arts communities. We provide our audience with curated insight into the world of art, from exhibitions to artist interviews and more.

Available artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER.

VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER | Le Monde Diplomatique

4 Apr

Thank you to Le Monde Diplomatique for featuring a potent handful of works by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER accompanying articles in the April 2023 edition. More info can be found by visiting http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr

Contact Morton Fine Art for available work from this series (pre-dating Krazy Kat) or visit www.mortonfineart.com.

Futurist Dreams and Artful Realities

31 Mar

Artfully Learning

A common foundation behind many great works of architecture is that they combine aesthetically compelling forms to create functioning structures that elevate the way humans live, work and relax. Creating such structures requires a strong visual and conceptual mindset and process, and the flexibility to try many different outcomes before arriving at a finished project. It also necessitates an astute understanding and feel for working with a range of materials and three-dimensional manipulatives, many of which are actually derived from the educational play materials for young children.

The most notable types of these learning toys are called Fröbel’s Gifts, and were designed by Friedrich Fröbel in the mid-eighteenth century to coincide with his opening of the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. Another prominent and widespread example are Caroline Pratt’s Do-With Toys, which were released around 1911. While Fröbel’s Gifts contain abstract forms intended to be used to develop…

View original post 1,638 more words


24 Mar

Vonn Cummings Sumner uses Krazy Kat to explore the natural world in his new series of paintings

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

American artist Vonn Cummings Sumner has revisited the classic cartoon strip character Krazy Kat in his latest solo exhibition, Second Nature, which is currently on view at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.


20 MARCH 2023

Krazy Kat is the legendary creation of cartoonist George Herriman, who entertained newspaper audiences daily during the strip’s original run from 1913 to 1944. Thanks to its surreal humour and innovative use of the comic strip format, Krazy Kat is often regarded as the greatest comic series of all time and continues to influence artists to this day.

One such artist is a Los Angeles-based painter and professor of art at Fullerton College in Southern California, Vonn Cummings Sumner. Having previously used Krazy Kat in paintings created during the pandemic, his latest series of works titled Second Nature sees the character follow in everyone else’s footsteps by once again stepping outside and exploring the world around them.

Depicting Krazy Kat walking through forests, swimming in pools and riding horses, Second Nature also sees the enduring figure explore iconography from Western art history. Retaining the sense of existential reverie and anarchy in the original strip, the exhibition also gives Vonn a chance to respond to the current world and follow up on themes he’d established in his previous Krazy Kat paintings.

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

The reason for Vonn’s continued fascination with Krazy Kat is partly down to the innocent and hopeless romantic qualities of the character itself. Without a set gender or even a set species, Krazy Kat acts as the perfect blank canvas onto which different topics and concerns can be projected.

“Herriman described Krazy as a ‘sprite’ – so there is something almost mystical or mythological about Krazy: an ideal empathetic effigy,” Vonn tells Creative Boom. “Also, the strip began in 1913, and there is some anarchic kind of energy that it communicates; it’s non-conformist, to say the least. Therefore, it became a kind of cult favourite among artists and writers, intellectuals and eccentrics during the 20th century. So, for me, there is an association with a certain strain of American bohemian counter-culture.”

When he first started using Krazy Kat in his paintings back in 2020, Vonn started to think more deeply about the unique opportunities it presented. “I realised that Krazy Kat is a human-animal hybrid, which is arguably the oldest/most-used subject or theme in human art, going all the way back to cave paintings. I think Krazy Kat (and a lot of our cartoon characters) is part of that lineage.”

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

The character made a strong impression on Vonn when he first encountered him. He can even remember exactly where he was. “I was an 18-year-old freshman at UC Davis, sitting in the back of Prof. Wayne Thiebaud’s ART 148/Theory & Criticism class,” he reveals.

“He started class one day with an image of a Krazy Kat comic strip projected on the screen and spoke with obvious affection for this odd, dense, unorthodox cartoon that painters had loved: Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Picasso. That had a huge impact on me, being introduced to Krazy Kat in that setting, at that impressionable stage.

“After class, I went straight to the campus library and checked out their only book on Krazy Kat, an anthology with an introduction by E.E. Cummings. I was obsessed from then on, reading everything I could get my hands on – drawing from it, copying the drawings. There was a real sense of discovery, a whole world of creativity, poetry, humour, and history. Profoundly pleasurable!”

Copying the strip could only satisfy Vonn for so long, though. Even though he loves it and is informed by art history, he says he has no interest in simply recreating something or indulging in nostalgia. “I want to make paintings that are relevant to people now, to communicate something about being alive now,” he explains.

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

“Painting is not so much about ‘self-expression’ to me as it is about a kind of self-discovery or self-questioning. So in a way, I am using Krazy Kat as a proxy, a stand-in for myself or for all of us in a larger sense, perhaps. I think that if I try to go too directly towards an issue or subject, then it comes out too literal, too predictable, and too cliche. But, if I can come at something sideways – from an odd angle – then I feel like I can touch on some deeper things. Krazy Kat is so specific and so unusual that it becomes a way of talking about things with some extra layers and some humour.”

Another reason why Vonn finds Krazy Kat so interesting to paint is that everything keeps changing. “The world has obviously been going through many big shifts and changes – culturally, technologically, politically, pandemically, environmentally, etc. – and in the Krazy Kat strip, everything is changing all the time.

“For example, from frame to frame, within each strip, the time of day will change, the landscape/background will change, and the language will change. In Herriman’s Krazy Kat, everything is subject to change all the time. So it feels very appropriate to have Krazy Kat help me process the world.”

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

It’s not just the world that’s changed; Vonn’s art style has had to adapt as well. By putting Krazy Kat in the natural world, Vonn has changed not only his colour palettes but also the kinds of situations and settings that the character will experience. And from there, the dynamic of the artwork followed.

“In these paintings, I am trying to find a balance between specific landscapes that I have known intimately in my own life and archetypal/mythological/art-historical landscapes – combining my personal sense memories with the collective cultural memory of art,” he reveals.

“That is the goal, at least. These things are hard to talk about, but essentially when I am painting, I am searching for a feeling, and that feeling is something like ‘strangeness’ or ‘mystery’, something that feels familiar and yet mysterious at the same time.

“There is a richness, I believe, from the kind of rhyming that can happen with other paintings and stories from art history. Just like a writer writes in the context of all the other things they have read, or a musician composing in relation/reaction to all of the music they have heard/played – I am making paintings in the context of all the other paintings that I have seen. I get a lot of creative energy from that interaction.”

© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner
© Vonn Cummings Sumner

As for why Krazy Kat continues to appeal to wider audiences after all these years, Vonn reckons it’s because the strip is so inventive. “I would place Herriman up there with Louis Armstrong and Walt Whitman on the shortlist of American originals. I could go on and on about that with comic lovers.

“But from a more general audience point of view, I think there is something special about Krazy Kat as a character, and I think it has something to do with ambiguity and vulnerability. Krazy Kat is not a ‘cat’ and not a ‘human’, and not a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ in any kind of set way. That kind of non-binary ambiguity has great energy somehow. It is very inclusive, allowing anyone to identify and empathise with Krazy.

“The world around Krazy Kat is full of change, danger, and conflict, but Krazy stays totally sincere and open-hearted. Who wouldn’t love that?”

Second Nature is on view until 8 April 2023 at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space (52 O St NW #302).

Available artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER

JENNY WU | Stirworld

22 Mar


6mins. read

Jenny Wu’s sculptural paintings are an extension of her time-based practice

The exhibition Ai Yo, by Chinese artist Jenny Wu at Morton Fine Art, is a seamless flow of composition, colour, control, and a chance at intersecting maths and art.

by Dilpreet Bhullar

Published on : Mar 06, 2023

Morton Fine Art, an art gallery based in Washington DCUnited States, is showcasing Chinese multimedia artist Jenny Wu’s sculptural paintings, rooted in her time-based practice, with the exhibitionAi Yo! Displaying close to 20 new works by the artist, the exhibition underscores her engagement with latex print. Overriding ‘mastery’ with ‘discovery,’ the works act as sites to survey the nuances of composition, colour, control, and chance. For Wu, who is academically trained as an architect, conceptual ideas of construction and embodiment run deep, setting the tone for the final composition of her sculptural paintings. Consequently, what viewers witness in the exhibition are artworks that serve both as ‘built objects’ and ‘records of labour, gesture, accident,’ questioning the conventional framework of paintings and sculptures. 

Briefly Inhabit a Fictional World, 2022, latex paint and resin on wood | Ai Yo | Jenny Wu | STIRworld
Briefly Inhabit a Fictional World, 2022, latex paint and resin on woodImage: Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and Jenny Wu

Each work is made with a silicon surface, over which Wu dispenses thick coats of latex paint. As soon as a layer of paint dries, the Chinese artist pours the next layer of latex. What we see, then, is a spectrum of colour that Wu breaks into small cuts, highlighting colourful cross-sections, often touched by chance elements like cracking. Furthermore, these cross-sections act as building blocks of relief. The final composition of wood panels is put together by these pieces. Interestingly, the play between ‘serendipity and planning’ removes hints of the original setting of paint, recontextualising it in a new form. 

Hello to That One Person Who Nods Along Encouragingly During Presentations, 2022, latex paint and resin on wood panel | Ai Yo | Jenny Wu | STIRworld
Hello to That One Person Who Nods Along Encouragingly During Presentations, 2022, latex paint and resin on wood panelImage: Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and Jenny Wu

Wu’s artistic practice is “underpinned by transformation and embodying time,” states a press release; in an interview with STIR, Wu elaborates on this, “The original format of the paint is liquid, but through the process of pouring, waiting, pouring again, waiting again, and then finally cutting and glueing, the paint is transformed into a solid form. What started as separate colours on different buckets, ends up having a conversation on these wood panels. Each time a layer of paint dries, it records time spent. The layers are not always the same thickness, and sometimes the paint cracks during drying or the next layer will steep through the previous one. All of those elements are on full display in the finished work.”

It's Not Finished But I Am, 2022, latex paint and resin on wood panel | Ai Yo | Jenny Wu | STIRworld
It’s Not Finished But I Am, 2022, latex paint and resin on wood panelImage: Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and Jenny Wu

The material, latex, has an inherent quality of being fragile, bound to throw challenges to visual artists who employ it as a key element. Wu confirms that in the early stages of her career as an artist, she found the crack extremely challenging, but gradually she learned to let the paint be—appreciating and embracing moments of imperfection. “I am also learning how different paint sheen, room temperature, and airflow can affect the cracking. Liquid latex paint might be fragile, but thick, dried latex paint is very dense and hard to cut by hand. My purlicue muscle has grown a lot on my right hand,” admits Wu. 

Jenny Wu | Ai Yo | Jenny Wu | STIRworld
Jenny WuImage: Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and Jenny Wu

Significantly, the titles of the sculptural paintings are central to the practice. Functioning as reflections of the methods Wu undertakes, to reorient the essentials of the material, for instance—Too Heavy to Carry to the British Museum70 Year Old Intern Waiting for His First Real JobHello to That One Person Who Nods Along Encouragingly During Presentations. Social networking sites such as Twitter, too, have been a source for the titles of the works. The humour and constructive value in the title of the art exhibition—Ai Yo! is unmissable. It carries regional expression and context, for the artist who hails from Nanjing in China, where the meaning of Ai Yo! is determined by a way of articulation, translating to anything between ‘impressed’ to ‘suspicious.’ 

Furthermore, when sculptural paintings are abstract and the titles are non-descriptive, Wu opines, “The idea that titles should create more space, and not point out the obvious, emerged a decade ago, when I bought house paint and came across paints named Va-Va Voom or Yeah Baby. The titles come from social media posts, usually comments on life in Washington D.C. at times having rings of academic or sometimes political. The titles function as a personal, minimal diary, emerging around the time I nearly finish a piece. Hello to That One Person Who Nods Along Encouragingly During Presentations is about appreciating that person and being that person for others.”

Jennny Wu at work

Video: Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and Jenny Wu

An artist and educator, Wu’s artistic practice is recognition of the ‘sensational and perceptual properties of materiality,’ only to recontextualise it in a new light to see the unseen. Wu is hopeful that the audience will see the intersections of maths and art while watching the sculptural paintings in the exhibition. Exploring patterns and moments of surprises within, experiencing the in-betweenness of painting and sculpture, exploring space from the physical work to its title, recalling the passing of time. “At the end of the day, I can have intentions and goals, but once you stand in front of the art, you are creating a new relationship between you and the work, and I can never be part of it,” shares Wu. 

The exhibition Ai Yo! by Jenny Wu is on view at Morton Fine Art, Washington DC until March 8, 2023.

About Author

Dilpreet Bhullar

Dilpreet Bhullar


Writer and researcher, Dilpreet Bhullar shuttles between New Delhi and Mumbai, India. With an MPhil in Comparative Literature (University of Delhi), she has been the recipient of the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Fellowship (Columbia University, New York) and International Centre For Advocates Against Discrimination Fellowship, New York. Her writings have appeared in Art Basel, Ocula, Routledge, criticalcollective.in, thirdtext.org, to name a few. Currently, she is the Editorial Manager of the magazine TAKE, which is dedicated to South Asian contemporary arts.

Available artwork by JENNY WU

VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER | The Daily Heller | Print Magazine

21 Mar

The Daily Heller: Krazy Kat’s Existential Public Persona

by Steven Heller

Posted 6 days ago  ∙  11 min. read

Second Nature is a curiously familiar solo exhibition of brand-new paintings on paper and canvas by artist Vonn Cummings Sumner. Familiar, that is, if you’re a follower of George Herriman’s influential comic strip character Krazy Kat and her unrequited love for brick-throwing Ignatz the Mouse.

Born of COVID-19, Sumner turned his pandemic loneliness to the form of Arizona’s most renowned “wandering avatar.” The seasons changed, the days turned into nights and nights into mornings, as Sumner imagined a 21st-century Krazy in verdant dales, wide-open spaces and art historical–seeded landscapes, evoking longing for a connection with nature without Ignatz, brick or jail in sight. Sumner’s sixth solo exhibition with the Morton gallery, Second Nature will be on view through April 8 at 52 O St. NW, #302, in Washington DC.

Introduced to Krazy Kat by his longtime mentor Wayne Thiebaud (1920–2021), reviving the character enabled Sumner to focus on existential concerns and painterly notions of color, composition, gesture and mark-making. “Lightened by the exhibition’s … moments of enigma, color and joy, Second Nature finds Krazy Kat (and Sumner) on a heavy, if much-needed retreat.” The work’s employ of a familiar, beloved character can have that effect on all.

I very much enjoyed the following conversation with Sumner, if only to focus on something other than the strife caused by real (and fake) post-COVID ‘Merica. Second Nature is neither real nor fake, but it sure is refreshing.

Kat Hole, 2023. Oil on panel, 18 x 18in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

I’m assuming you are a comics fan. Or is it just Krazy Kat that captures your fascination?
Yes, of course. I am a lifelong comics fan. My favorite, as a kid in the ’80s, was the X-Men. I also loved the Marvel Universe comic books that just had a page for each character. When I was a kid, I was making my own comics (which weren’t very good). My friends in elementary school were into it too. We would sit around and draw from comics together. We had subscriptions at the local comic book store, where we would go once a month when the new issues came out. I loved a lot of the weird stuff, though. From Mad Magazine’s comics to Groo the Wanderer. And there was one called Plop! Then I got older and discovered R. Crumb, and then Dark Horse Comics and other things. I was obsessed with Daniel Clowes for a while; he was very influential on me. Art Spiegelman, of course.

Melancholy Kat, 2022. Oil on panel, 18 x 18 in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

You remove Krazy’s cohorts from your work, substituting other artistic features like landscape and pattern. What is your motive for devoting your energies to transformation?
It’s very appropriate that you use the word “transformation”— that feels right. This is hard to articulate, but I have this gut feeling that if I included Ignatz or Offisa Pup, then it would be a totally different kind of thing. I’m not interested in reenacting the comic strip literally; it’s more I feel connected to Krazy Kat, like Krazy is an old friend, a timeless soul. It’s like Krazy Kat comes from another time, but is also timeless somehow. As a painter, I am interested in the world as it is now; how we make beauty and meaning and life now. So I am trying to summon the spirit of Krazy Kat, to accompany me in this time and to see what happens in this context, here and now. Personally the fast few years have been a time of pretty intense transformation. And globally, of course, the past few years have been transformational (for better or worse). Krazy Kat comes from that world (of the strip) where things are transforming all the time, so this pairing feels appropriate somehow. Sometimes I think: What if Krazy Kat were the last being on earth? Or, what if Krazy Kat was the first of a new species, after a mass extinction? Sometimes I think of Krazy Kat almost like a child, mimicking what we do. None of it is that literal, of course, since it is a visual medium and I am working largely by following instincts, impulses, intuitions—trying to stay ahead of my rational mind so that the paintings remain a little bit of a mystery even to me. You are right, though, I am searching for some kind of transformation via Krazy Kat.

Your reinterpretation of Krazy Kat is an inspiring take on a classic character who is particularly associated by art historians with the early marriage of cartoon and modern art. Where did your passion for Krazy come from?
I think that is part of why Krazy Kat feels right to me, to paint this character that is intertwined with the development of modern art in general, and especially in the U.S., the link to the Armory show of 1913. It’s all connected, artistically. My passion for Krazy comes from my time at UD Davis: I was an 18-year-old freshman, sitting in the back of Prof. Wayne Thiebaud’s ART 148/Theory & Criticism class. He started class one day with an image of one of the Krazy Kat comic strips projected up on the screen, and spoke with obvious affection for this odd, dense, unorthodox cartoon that had been beloved by painters: Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Picasso. That had a huge impact on me, being introduced to it that way, in that setting, at that impressionable stage.

River Bather, 2023. Acrylic on paper, 22.5 x 30.25 in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

You’ve captured the spirit of Krazy without copying the tropes. In your paintings, she is her own character in a new but not entirely alien landscape. Why did you adapt her in this way? What inspired you to take Krazy out of her natural environment?
Long story short: I had been painting figures for several years, pretty realistically, and most of the time I was painting myself—or at least using my own body/face as a “figure” that I would costume in different ways. Eventually I got really sick of painting myself and needed a change. I painted a series of trashcans and dumpsters—often on fire—on sidewalks and alleys. In a few of those paintings, I included an ‘alley-cat’—again, realistically. One of my painter friends, Randall Cabe, was doing a studio visit with me. We were talking about those paintings and he said he really liked how the cats functioned like a “figure” to help bring the viewer into the space. He knew my love of Krazy Kat, and the connection to Thiebaud, and he said, “why not make that cat into Krazy Kat?” So I did it a couple of times, just to make my friend laugh. I painted Krazy Kat in the alley and on the sidewalk. Then I showed those first two paintings to Thiebaud and he said such interesting, encouraging things that I felt like it was worth exploring some more. Then the pandemic hit and it was during that first week or two of lockdown that it just seemed obvious/inevitable: a Krazy Kat for a crazy time. 

Horse and Rider, 2023. Oil on canvas, 48 x 65 in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

You’ve also reconfigured Krazy, elongating her, seemingly taming her while maintaining the essence of the original (especially the ‘Z’ tail). She seems more mature. What went into your decision to create this physical type?
I think it relates back to Herriman’s strip, actually: If you look at Krazy Kat from the beginning, around 1913 to the end in the early 1940s, there is quite a shift in how he draws Krazy. So that is built into the character, in a way—the ability to shift and change and transform. Again this all feels appropriate on a gut level. So then I was painting Krazy Kat—and partly it is just my own mistakes, or limitations, in trying to depict them—but at some point I will just go with it, and accept the way that I have painted them. And then that leads to the obvious question: Why not give Krazy a little more anatomy/structure? All the countless hours that I put in drawing from the model then comes into play. I kind of can’t help but make Krazy a little bit more “human.” To do otherwise, to just be totally faithful to the cartoon, would be too “cute” in my opinion. I am not going for cute. I am interested in the human-animal hybrid tradition of art, going back to the caves, the Lion-Man Hohlenstein-Stadel sculpture, all the way through the great Egyptian versions, the Hindu and Buddhist versions. I’m very interested in Krazy Kat as a kind of modern extension of that tradition—the human/animal hybrid is one of the oldest and most popular themes in the history of art, and that is definitely part of the point of the whole project for me.

What’s Up Kat…, 2023. Acrylic on paper, 22.5 x 30.25 in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

I love the nuanced and overt parodies (especially the Bugs Bunny reference). When Herriman drew Krazy there was wit and humor but not parody per se. What are you saying about art, life, comics and existence through your Krazy Kat?
Thank you. I hadn’t thought of it like that yet. That is a really interesting question. I think that has to do with the times—the difference between Modern and Postmodern, perhaps? But also it has to do with the medium: A cartoon strip has its history/language/conventions and a painting has its history/language/conventions. I hold humor very high in the hierarchy of artistic values. And Thiebaud used to say that an artwork without a sense of humor was probably lacking a sense of perspective. So on a very basic level, I take humor very seriously, and I trust it: If a painting can make me laugh, that is enough. I trust that. As for larger messages or explanations, I think that is better left up to each viewer.

How long will you continue to make this otherworldly Krazy Kat?
As long as it feels right. I don’t have a set timeline or anything. Painting, art, etc., doesn’t run on the clock. Sometimes I like to think that Krazy Kat is with me, visiting me, like a spirit or a muse. These are the things that artists should never talk about, haha! We get very carried away.

Krazy Desert, 2021–2023. Oil on panel, 18 x 18 in. Courtesy of Morton Fine Art and the artist

I own a latter-day daily original (four-panel) Krazy Kat, hanging on the wall in front of me. It seems like Herriman drew it on the fly. In fact, I think he’d disavow it now. How do you think Herriman would take to your interpretations?
Wow, that is really cool, I would love to see it. Wayne had some originals in his collection, which he showed to me. In addition to the amazingly skillful drawing, of course, I was struck by how big they were!

As for your very interesting question, that is very funny to contemplate! The greatest compliment, of course, would be to get his positive stamp of approval. But he might take issue with all of the liberties that I am taking! I understand that Herriman himself did some plein-air painting in the Southwest, and was a great admirer of painting, of course. I think he even did a painting or two of Krazy Kat? He was very hard on himself, very humble and self-depricating. My hope is that, at least, Herriman would see that I have genuine respect and affection for Krazy. But as a painter, I also have to be willing to offend, make mistakes, do it ‘wrong.’ That is the spirit of freedom that Herriman infused the Krazy Kat comic strip with, so I hope he would understand.

Moments after finishing the interview, Vonn sent in a bonus response. . .
I’m still thinking about those questions and wanted to pass along some thoughts spurred by our conversation.

We are wired, it seems, to want to think of the world as stable and knowable—but of course it’s not. Everything is changing all the time, and we actually seem to know very little. Krazy Kat seems fine with that changability, that instability. I’m trying to learn from Krazy, in a way, trying to absorb that ability to accept and navigate the instability of life. Humans like to convince ourselves that we know what we’re doing and we make all kinds of laws and rules and systems to reinforce that illusion; which, of course, is the human-folly that Herriman was commenting on in a very sophisticated way, with humor and affection and almost unparalleled inventiveness. That is very appealing to me, that kind of theater of the absurd. I loved Beckett and all of the more contemporary things influenced by his work, including Bugs Bunny and Charlie Brown. The Great Pumpkin is like Waiting for Godot for children! So I do think that very serious and profound ideas can be approached through things like cartoons and comics and paintings. It’s all about the human-scale, the intention. I’m wary of getting too pretentious, and it’s also probably folly to ask too much of paintings, but these are some of the things I think about. Albert Camus said something to the effect of “humans are the only animal that doesn’t know what it is”—Krazy Kat is like that, somehow. The tension is that humans seem very uncomfortable with that uncertainty, while Krazy Kat seems perfectly fine with it.

Posted in Designer InterviewsThe Daily Heller

Steven Heller

Steven Heller has written for PRINT since the 1980s. He is co-chair of SVA MFA Designer as Entrepreneur. The author, co-author and editor of over 200 books on design and popular culture, Heller is also the recipient of the Smithsonian Institution National Design Award for “Design Mind,” the AIGA Medal for Lifetime Achievement and other honors. He was a senior art director at The New York Times for 33 years and a writer of obituaries and book review columnist for the newspaper, as well. His memoir, Growing Up Underground (Princeton Architectural Press) was published in 2022. Some of his recent essays are collected in For the Love of Design (Allworth Press).

Available artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER.