Ned Vena

Ned Vena
Acrylic, oil and UV-cured ink on linen
129 × 104 × 2.5 cm (50 ¾ × 41 × 1 inches)

Installation view: 6817 Melrose Los Angeles 2017

Control 11
Spray paint on paper, framed
52.7 × 65.7 cm (20 ¾" × 25 ⅞") (framed)

Tattoo Painting Left Shoulder
Acrylic and UV Cured Ink on Canvas
204 × 148 × 4 cm (80 ⅜ × 58 ¼ × 1 ⅝ inches)

Installation view: Paintings Without Borders II, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 2016

Installation View: CLONES, Project Native Informant 2015

the situation
Rubber, polyurethane and acrylic on canvas stretched over shaped wooden panel in 7 parts
the situation-S: 154 × 130 × 3 cm (60 ⅝" × 51 ⅛" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-I (1): 148 × 70 × 3 cm (58 ¼" × 27 ½" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-T (1): 145 × 134 × 3 cm (57 ⅛" × 52 ¾" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-U: 151 × 146 × 3 cm (59 ½" × 57 ½" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-A: 146 × 150 × 3 cm (57 ½" × 59" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-T (2): 145 × 134 × 3 cm (57 ⅛" × 52 ¾" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-I (2): 148 × 70 × 3 cm (58 ¼" × 27 ½" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-O: 146 × 152 × 3 cm (57 ½" × 59 ⅞" × 1 ⅛")
the situation-N: 146 × 154 × 3 cm (57 ½" × 60 ⅝" × 1 ⅛")

Installation View: CLONES, Project Native Informant 2015

Spray paint on paper, framed
74 × 104 cm (29 ⅛" × 40 ½")

Installation view: Beware Wet Paint, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin 2014

Installation view: Menace II Société Société 2014

Installation view: Paintings Without Borders Real Fine Arts, New York 2014


Ned Vena

Solo Exhibitions:

2018 Project Native Informant, London
2017 6817 Melrose, Los Angeles
2017 Société, Berlin
2016 Control Segs, Ramiken Crucible, New York
2014 Menace II Société, Société, Berlin
2014 Paintings Without Borders, Real Fine Arts, New York
2012 Ned Vena, Clifton Benevento, New York
2012 Ned Vena, White Flag Projects, St. Louis
2011 Ned Vena, Société, Berlin
2011 Ned Vena, Michael Benevento, Los Angeles
2010 Ned Vena, Max Hans Daniel, Berlin
2010 Ned Vena, Clifton Benevento, New York
2009 800 Numbers, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis
2009 Ned Vena, Michael Benevento, Los Angeles
2008 Ned Vena, Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, Berlin
2008 Ned Vena, Cohan and Leslie Gallery, New York

Group Exhibitions:

2018 CONDO, Project Native Informant, London
2015 Geometric Obsession, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires
2015 Group show, Real Fine Arts, New York
2015 New York Painting, Kunst Museum, Bonn
2015 Seven Artists in Two Rooms, Offsite, New York
2014 Dizionario di Pittura, Francesca Minini, Milan
2014 Stars + Stripes: American Art of the 21st Century from the Goldberg Collection, Bathurst, Regional Art Gallery, Bathurst
2014 Beware Wet Paint, Institute for Contemporary Arts, London
2014 Collaborative Painting & Text, Algus Greenspon Gallery, New York
2014 Jeanette Mundt & Ned Vena, Federico Vavassori, Milan
2013 A brief history of spots, stripes and holes, Carlson Gallery, London
2013 Sous l‘Amazone coule un fleuve, FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand
2012 Trojan Horses, Bugada & Cargne, Paris
2012 Home Again, Again, The Journal Gallery, New York
2012 The Space in Between, Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston
2012 Minimal Myth, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
2012 Josh Kolbo & Ned Vena, Société, Berlin
2012 Soft OP, Modern Collections, London
2012 Into The Surface, Brand New Gallery, Milan
2011 Sentimental Education, Gavlak Gallery, Palm Beach
2011 Les Affranchis, Frac Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand
2011 I don‘t know if it makes any sense – I feel quite dizzy and a little drunk due to the blow. I will return with more info
shortly…, curated by Howie Chen & Tim Saltarelli, IMO Projects, Copenhagen
2011 Summer Whites: Curated by Eddie Mar nez and Sam Moyer, Rachel Uffner Gallery, New York
2011 Everything You Can imagine is Real..., Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
2011 One dozen Paintings, The Journal, New York
2011 Curating the Contemporary : Joseph Montgomery & Ned Vena, Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel
2011 Gruppenausstellung 2, Max Hans Daniel, Berlin
2010 The Power of selection, Western Exhibitions, Chicago
2010 Skins, curated by Alex Gartenfeld, OHWOW Gallery, Miami
2010 Substance Abuse, curated by Colin Huerter, Leo König Inc. New York
2010 Metallika, curated by Patrick Brennan, Monya Rowe Gallery, New York
2010 The Blood of a Poet, Thierry Goldberg Projects, New York
2010 Célébration, Frac Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand
2010 Mass Ornament, Barbara Gladstone, New York
2010 Shape Language, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York
2010 At the Splendors of the Earth (Part 2), Cave, Detroit
2010 Homegrown, The Art Complex Museum, Duxbury
2009 Gruppenausstellung: Organi, Organised by Max Hans Daniel, Autocenter, Berlin
2009 Nothing I to say and I am Saying it, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg
2009 If the Dogs are Barking, Artist‘s Space, New York
2009 Maximal Minimal, Primo Piano, Lugano
2009 From the collection of…, White Columns, New York
2009 Group Show, Cave, Detroit
2009 This is not the Striezelmarkt, Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, Dresden
2008 Blue Sky, Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, Dresden
2008 B Seite, Galerie Gebr. Lehmann, Berlin
2008 Psych, Galerie Dennis Kimmerich, Düsseldorf
2008 Back to Black, Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover
2008 Friends and Family, Anton Kern, New York
2008 Cube Passerby, organised by Michael Caputo and Gavin Brown, Passerby, New York
2007 Ilya Lipkin, Sean Raspet, Ned Vena, organised by Arnd Seibert, Cohan and Leslie, New York
2007 On View: Selections from the BC Project Room permanent collection, BC Project Room, New York
2006 Attic, Anton Kern Gallery, New York


14 Dec 2016

NVE :: Mathieu Malouf on Ned Vena

14 Dec 2014

NVE :: Review of Ned Vena, Menace II Société @ Société (Spike)

30 Sep 2014

NVE :: Review of Ned Vena, Menace II Société @ Société (Art in America)

Usually, where contemporary U.S. painting is still in thrall to its great flowering of the 1950s and '60s, its allusions are ironic or critical qualifications of an earlier ideal of direct, painterly expression. Ned Vena belongs to a current group of New York-based painters— including, for example, Wade Guyton and Cheyney Thompson—who emphasize the means of production of the kind of hard-edge abstract painting that was one end point of Greenbergian formalist aesthetics. This is nothing new, of, course: Frank Stella's early "Black Paintings" took a similarly reductive, materialistic stance in relation to the metaphysical pretensions of the painting of Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko. This revisionist tradition cultivates a paradox by outing the process behind painting originally conceived to conceal such matters in the name of "opticality."

Vena's series of seven tondo-shaped target paintings (all 2014) at Société—each 64 inches in diameter—extends the axis between opticality and objecthood to a rhetorical extreme. Although their black-and-white concentric circles evoke the post-painterly abstraction of Kenneth Noland's concentric circle paintings (1958- 63), or the Op-art shimmer of Bridget Riley's early 1960s work, Vena does everything he can to puncture an aura of modernist optical purity. His series is closer, in spirit and purpose, to Jasper Johns's Target paintings of the late 1950s, which reduced geometric abstraction to functional design while investing it with the lumpen materiality of an encaustic technique. Vena's paintings are also abstractions that have come down in the world and to the world; literally, in fact, all the way to the shop floor. Vena had Société carpeted in a rubber mesh used in industry to cushion the soles of manual workers during long shifts. It emitted a powerful reek of rubber, which the gallery had unsuccessfully attempted to neutralize with ventilation boxes distributed across the floors.

Vena's background is in street art and commercial printing, and he has always created paintings through stencils produced on the kind of digital plotting machine used for such purposes. The technology was developed to efficiently repeat images, symbols or text onto posters or walls, but Vena subverts this expectation by using it to print non- signifying geometric patterns onto canvas. But, as in the work of Andy Warhol, Christopher Wool or Guyton, how painting exceeds its stenciled parameters becomes the point. The glitch that the technology was developed to avoid constitutes the art's content. Each circle was printed in four quarters. White polyurethane paint was brushed on, the stencil realigned, and black rubber sprayed into the spaces between the white lines. Materials are rhetorically industrial: the black rubber is normally used to cast the underside of cars. Its thinned deposits bleed over the dried white paint, amplifying the optical buzz of contrasting tones with traces of static.

Vena appropriates the scale and conceits of the geometric abstraction of Stella, Morris Louis and Noland—the serialism, the fetishizing of reiterated process—and brutally functionalizes it with his industrial conceits. Stella's disillusioning of modernist idealism is given a theatrical twist. Slowly turning, affixed to a motor on the wall, Target Painting GGG (Plug), 2014, satirizes the nerdy specificities of formalist painting by riffing on the fact that the composition is not changed by rotation. Its fairgroundish spin renders its neighbors comparatively static. In his notebooks, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes of the "agency" of form as distinct from the stasis of shape. The spinning painting might be a demonstration of that axiom. Its spin blurs out the signs of materiality that define the series, and substitutes for them an illusion of a dematerialized, geometric composition: the kind of purist formalism that Vena is so intent on submitting to his self-exposing process.

Mark Prince Art in America 30 September 2014

15 May 2014

NVE :: Taking aim at post-internet art’s detractors

Ned Vena at Société

Berlin’s Gallery Weekend poses a challenge for curators. The city is not well-known for its art market, so, when buyers come to town, it’s best to make the most of the opportunity. This task is not an easy one, and it can sometimes feel like galleries are marketing to out-of-town buyers (those well-dressed passengers chauffeured in shiny black cars) rather than taking curatorial risks. After all, there is some art in the process of mixing business with pleasure.

Despite the sometimes conservative offerings on show some galleries managed to produce exciting work this year. A particular standout was at the gallery Société. Nestled in one of the seedier parts of Schöneberg (think “Christiane F.”), Société balances market appeal with curatorial boldness in its presentation of paintings by American artist Ned Vena, entitled “Menace II Société”.

Vena is a painter who builds on the very American tradition of minimalism and abstraction. Influenced by artists such as Frank Stella, with wisps of Kenneth Noland, Vena’s paintings add to the dialogue of his contemporaries, most notably that of Wade Guyton. The artist’s style is rooted in the art history of New York, where he lives and works, but avoids being dull through its combination of sensitivity, humor and conceptual rigour. The attitude the works convey is comparable to paintings by Joe Bradley: a dry wit that is conscious of history but not stifled by it. However, what really sets the artist apart is his use of unconventional materials. Long gone are acrylics and oils, instead replaced by industrial-grade rubber and vinyl. Using spray cans and adhesive, each painting is produced using a unique set of processes, executed with the aid of an industrial cartographic machine.

Walking up the dusty stairs to Société you are immediately struck by a sharp chemical smell that hits you in the back of your nostrils. Industrial-grade rubber mats line the floor of the gallery – the type you see in kitchens or bars – and emit a strong, synthetic odour. As the smell wafts through the building, air purifiers hum in the background – a futile attempt at sensory relief. You find plastered cheap vinyl stickers emblazoned with the slogan “Menace II Société” in the oddest places, a wry reference to graffiti culture. The paintings themselves are large circular “targets” that play havoc with the eyes. Reminiscent of TV test patterns, they produce trippy visual patterns that echo in the sides of your vision as you traverse the space. Upon close inspection, each painting is rich with texture. Thick, black rubber extrudes from canvas. The rubber is jagged, as if it’s about to jump off. Adjacent are smooth, soft, white lines that rest quietly and humbly. Each painting is similar – a play on the same process, but with a difference that emerges through Vena’s very human participation in the mechanical processes of their production.

In a notorious blog post entitled “Why I hate Post-Internet Art” ( hate-post-internet-art/), writer and critic Brian Droitcour raised some critical points on the rise of post-internet art. Among the accusations were that it was poorly made, failed to activate space and preened for the camera – the scene around Société was described as bad too. The word post-internet has a tragicomic ring to it, but it’s something that can be best viewed as a placeholder more than anything else. I don’t think anyone takes the term seriously anymore – besides about five speculative investors who bought up big and will profit off it in a few years’ time. Indeed some points made by Droitcour are valid: it’s a shame when works look good online but fail to meet expectations in person. However, the consequence of painting a scene or gallery with a thick brush is that the image can become distorted and inaccurate.


Vena’s paintings, by contrast, are well-made. They activate space and don’t preen for the camera. They are works that look decent online, but really shine when experienced in person. Vena’s approach of placing precedence on materiality is one valid reaction to an increasingly dematerialised landscape, to which the internet contributes greatly. The industrial rubber matts lining the gallery floor activate the paintings and give cohesion to the whole exhibition space, and the overpowering synthetic odour they emit makes this one show that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. What works in “Menace II Société” is an attention to detail and concepts that is borne out of a rich history of painting and extended through to a contemporary approach to image-making. Vena is an artist who proves, once again, that there is still something left to paint.

Tomasz Kobialka Sleek 15 May 2014

1 Jul 2015

NVE :: Painting as Code

Spike No. 44 Summer 2015

1 May 2012

NVE :: Double Painting

In his second solo exhibition at Clifton Benevento in New York, Brooklyn-based artist Ned Vena applies a singular painterly gesture to multiple unique works. "To make two separate paintings from one gesture was an attempt to embrace the feeling that I was making the same painting over and over again," Vena told A.i.A of his work, which varies in color and materials, but is always ruled by the grid. "I wanted to diffuse the unique and singular results of the individual works and create two objects from an individual process."

The self-titled show consists of two related series. The first comprises large violet paintings, created by stretching two canvases over the same support, flooding them with violet Garvey ink—commercially sold to fill price markers at supermarkets, and frequently used by graffiti artists—and then separating them on two different stretchers. The paintings on the back wall are also ruled by V-shaped grids reminiscent of Frank Stella's "Black Paintings," a series referenced in many of Vena's earlier works. These works were wrought using vinyl stencils applied to the top canvas and flooded with pigment. After the ink dried, Vena peeled off the stencil, but allowed some of the stubborn material to remain.

These violet paintings look related, but not identical. On the left wall, the canvases have a textural quality, a deeply pigmented surface made tactile by the remnants of the acrylic. On the right wall, their fraternal twins look like silk screens, shallow and flat. "I've always wondered what the reverse of a Morris Louis painting might look like," he mused.

The show also includes sculptures made from acid-etched security glass panels. Vena's recurring grids appear in the wire mesh embedded into the glass. Standing at the entrance like gatekeepers and covered in large amoebic blotches, the transparent sculptures recall Warhol's Rorschach paintings. They are created by throwing an acid mixture at one panel, and pressing another sheet of glass on top of it, and separating them once the acid has eaten through the surface. The resulting screens obstruct views of the gorgeous, expansive canvasses hanging on the wall behind them. "I wanted people to have to sneak around the glass carefully, like fitting through a hole in a fence," Vena says. "To create an obstacle through which the viewer initially sees the paintings."

Walsch, Brienne Art in America May 2012

1 Mar 2012

NVE :: Abstract Labor


Working across a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, installation and film, New York based artist Ned Vena has developed a practice that merges digital media with the materials and form engendered by graffiti and vandalism. Employing the tools of commercial sign production towards the articulation of his own particular abstract visual language, Vena takes up various forms of labor occupying roles that move from those of the flexible information worker to those more akin to manual labor. Though realized with the aid of digital and mechanized technologies the resulting works are ultimately made by hand, they bear the traces of their production and use industrial and commercial materials in ways reminiscent of minimalist painting practices of some 50 years ago.

Over the course of the last four or five years, Vena has made a number of paintings that are ostensibly the same, each one seemingly a variation on those precursors to Minimalism – Frank Stella’s series of Black Paintings of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The most prevalent of these compositions derives its structure from a repeating pattern of right-angled lines that divide the work into four quadrants. Working serially, the number of quadrants has expanded to eight or twelve in some paintings, appearing almost as a diptych or triptych on a single canvas and creating new variations on the predominant pattern in the process. Still others have been circular, target paintings consisting of concentric black rings. Like Vena’s other works, the quadrants are always purposely misaligned at the center, their visible seams appearing as cross hairs or Cartesian axes.

Remaining nearly consistent throughout is also the manner in which Vena’s painting practice breaks down into clearly differentiated stages of production with clear divisions of labor. Pre-production resides in Adobe Illustrator, a vector based graphic design program in which a series of lines are drawn. The resulting files are then made material by a vinyl plotter that mechanically cuts an adhesive vinyl mask. This mask is subsequently applied to a raw or primed linen surface and then painted a solid monochromatic color directly out of the can, without much regard for gesture. The lines that the computer was originally used to draw will ultimately find their way into the final painting through a purely negative process. The removal of the vinyl stencil finally reveals both the painting and its residual traces: the discernible trenches this removal leaves, the oily aerosol “bruises” that seep through the mask into the linen, and the edges of the numerous individuated layers of paint.

But what, for Vena, actually constitutes the “paint” with which each painting is produced differs from series to series and includes materials whose intended use is primarily commercial or industrial. This ranges from protective enamel paints to an aerosol spray rubber to a deep violet ink employed in retail pricing guns. This list of materials also includes acid that Vena has used in a series of works on lozenge shaped mirrors to etch an image or trace of the acid’s own splashing upon the mirrored surface, another kind of negative removal. In each case, underlying their specific employment are the inherent material qualities of what are all clearly non-traditional media. The enamel paints that Vena has employed in the production of a number of monochromes in colors including white, brown, black and gray, are made by Rust- Oleum, a brand of metal primer paints designed to stop the spread of rust. In contrast, the spray rubber is designed to be a durable rubberized coating that protects automotive underbodies against corrosion caused by water, dirt and salt. However, having also been appropriated by graffiti artists, the rubber has become a tool because of its ability to adhere to painted surfaces that would normally absorb other spray paints. And like the etching acid or the violet ink, the rubber leaves a permanent mark, resisting efforts by removal services to cover it up and paint it over.

Also used here in ways antithetical to its intended purpose, is the vinyl plotter, a machine designed for the fabrication of commercial signage. Traditionally used in the production of signs, vinyl lettering, and language or linguistic forms made physical, Vena employs the plotter to different ends, abstracting these characters and reducing them to the graphic. In addition to its use as a mask for the paintings, vinyl has increasingly been used by Vena as a material for the work itself. For instance, in several of his recent exhibitions, Vena has covered the lower half of the gallery walls, along with all of their attendant architectural features, including outlets and light switches, in 3mm thick horizontal stripes. Installed in regularly sized panels, creating wrinkles and kinks in the vinyl as he does so, the result of the artist’s labor is the creation of a ground that though seemingly crumpled, is one upon which other works are occasionally hung. In a complimentary series of works on individual aluminum honeycomb panels, Vena adheres two or more layers of overlapping vinyl in a similar fashion, often in different colors. This work affirms the vinyl’s own unique materiality and forms unpredictable visual patterns of interference in the process.

But all of these works also ultimately generate a material surplus, which is in turn put to use in a number of 16mm films. Cut up and applied to clear film leader, the left over, residual vinyl from the paintings, wall installations and aluminum panels becomes an animated sequence of black and white lines. Because the vinyl’s regular spacing does not align itself perfectly with the standardized dimensions of the physical film frame, the lines create the impression that they are moving, ascending and swaying side to side. Punctuated at regular intervals by the overlapping of the vinyl with the next section, appearing visually as a kind of stutter, the films also accumulate scratches, dirt, fingerprints and other artifacts from the studio, again bearing witness to their own making, before being digitized and exhibited on video.

In this ultimate return of Vena’s work to the digital, albeit in the form of photographic documentation, the vectors from which all of the works are constituted are collapsed into a field of pixels. This translation then generates its own language of abstraction, mirroring that performed by the works themselves in their rejection of literal representation and flawless technological reproduction. As a result of their relationship to art history and the semiotic operations of graffiti, the different forms of labor required to produce them and the complicated surfaces and material compositions that come about as a result, Vena’s works each necessitate an active viewing relationship, one both proximate and distant, considering all of their various details while simultaneously keeping their totality in mind.

Tim Saltarelli zero deux No. 61

1 Mar 2012

NVE :: Review of Ned Vena @ White Flag Projects

[uds-billboard name=”vena”]The fire door – a staple of crowded, hot, urban apartment buildings, and often the infamous struggling artist dwelling, is typically something of a necessary eyesore. Ned Vena’s solo-show at White Flag Projects consists completely of such large, steel fire doors – the cheapest that will pass code. But Vena has transformed them, with the addition of geometric patterns he terms “paintings,” into something of a minimal masterpiece of calm, serenity, and impressive optical illusion. The effect is a part minimalist, part Op Art, part Surrealist experience within the fittingly pared-down space of White Flag Projects.

Ten doors occupy the gallery space, hinged directly upon the walls, opened at varying degrees, leaving the center of the gallery empty and bare, effectively highlighting the dream-like, unsettling Surrealist scene of a room consisting solely of non-functional doors. The sight is striking, to say the least, even cold at first. But once you make the decision to go ahead and physically enter this world of nothing-but-doors, there are elements of intimacy and creativity. All the doors are the exact same size, brand, type and color. But beyond such basic logistics, the doors offer quite different experiences individually. Upon a closer look, you can see that some have smudged hand prints on the steel, accrued over the course of shipping. These speak to the non-artist, though still human, element present in the work and appearing in some form in most contemporary installation and conceptual art. The artist has left these hand prints where they have occurred, delighting in the elements of randomness in an otherwise heavily controlled piece, ever so slightly referencing the chance aspect of Dada. Other doors have maker’s mark stickers and bar codes on the side, speaking to the conceptual aspects that necessitate and supersede the actual production of an object.

However, the artist’s hand is still strongly present. Each of the doors has exceptionally precise designs directly on it, created through the laying down of thin strips of black adhesive vinyl. Depending on the patterning, varying from stripes to diamonds to squares to a mix of these, some doors are more black than white, while others reveal more of the aforementioned smudges and others none at all, appearing completely geometrically manipulated. Some of the patterns create strong optical illusions, creating the effect of movement for the viewer, in spite of the objects’ solidity, and could be part of some sort of minimalist, Op-Art fun house. Vena, a New-York based artist, calls the doors “paintings,” speaking to his more typical practice of using paints, but also to lead us to a more a critical understanding of the doors. Although steel doors are not a typical canvas and the material used on them are not typical paints, they are directly connected to the history of art in the 20th century, and movements responding to Clement Greenberg’s understanding of Modernism and his call for the essentiality of each medium to respond to its own innate qualities.

In Vena’s show, the doors in the space create a quite beautiful effect that is, upon entry, aloof, but on exit, peacefully escapist, meditative even, in the combination of control and precision with human presence and physicality. On the outside of the gallery, facing the street, hangs a large, white, printed vinyl piece consisting of a black key with the buff torso of a man in place of the top of the key, the key shape accentuated by the way his hands rest behind his head. The key gives a lyrical and even literary quality to the experience about to come upon those who enter, while also expressing the masculinity, precision, and strength of the art and art movements which have influenced Vena and which he continues to expand and cultivate into 21st century critical interests and thematics.

Laura Elizabeth Barone "Ned Vena at White Flag Project" Temporary Art Review March 2012