Friday, December 30, 2005

An inspirational gift

We got a wonderful gift from mom this year (thanks mom!). It is a membership to the American Museum of Natural History.

I love this museum. I took advantage of the membership and went to the museum on Wednesday with my friends Doug and Rachael. We had tried to go to the Tenement Museum, but it was sold out, so we had some ice cream from Il Labororatorio del Gelato and then headed uptown.

I have been to the AMNH a few times, but had forgotten how fabulous it is. The Hall of Biodiversity, the Giant Whale Hall (I don't think that is the actual name of it), the halls from around the world the Planetarium and one of my favorites, the Minerals and Gems collection (I also got an encyclopedia of minerals for Christmas). I could literally spend hours looking at the minerals (if it weren't so hot in there!).

I am looking forward to going back to the AMNH with G to enjoy the planetarium, the Darwin and Butterfly shows and the show of photographs by the people of China's Yunan Province.

What a great museum. It should fuel a lot of work this year. I will try to post some pictures too. I started a drawing based on the Goethite (don't have pics of that, but some others are above) in their collection.

Holidays on the beach...

Not exactly Christmas on the beach, but with 80 degree weather, we certainly could have been. (Apparently our family in Australia was doing exactly that - steaks on the barbie for Christmas and Boxing Day on the beach).

We did our holiday pilgrimage to Texas, escaping the transit strike and cold (not that cold though) weather in NYC for warm days, wind and sunshine in the Lone Star State.

We were able to pepper the traditional celebrations with a few more art related endeavors. We took time out of shopping to stop by the Rothko Chapel though which was the perfect antidote to crowded shopping districts (no, we don't go to the mall). The broken obelisk was out for cleaning, so the pool was empty. Inside, the rothko's and the building itself were as thrilling and as hypnotic as ever. The sky that day worked tremendously well with the space. The small building is lit only by natural light let in through a skylight with a diffuser. As the clouds pass by overhead, the light inside is constantly changing, and therefore the paintings change too. There are 14 paintings inside (a few triptychs and a few large single paintings) are mostly in the purple to black range. Each painting has a tremendous depth and intensity. You can sit and get completely lost inside each one. It is a wonderful way to meditate, and the kind of thing that Yves Klein would appreciate.

The day after boxing day (does that have a name?) we were able to spend the day visiting a variety of art spots around the metroplex. Our first stop (a special treat for G) was the Beer Can House, an 18 year project by John Milkovisch in which he completely covered his house with beer can pieces (can tops and bottoms, sides, pull tabs etc.). Sadly, the house has lost some of its previous glamour. But according to some reports, The Orange Show received a large grant this year to restore the house.

We didn't get to go see The Orange Show itself, a large folk art 'environment' because of the renovation it was undergoing. So we opted for some other stops. We stopped by two galleries, Sicardi Gallery, and Barbara Davis. Regina Silveira was showing at Sicardi, and although it looked interesting online, the actuality of it was not at all interesting. The works were cg tire treads, the computer aided part made it far less interesting than if it had been hand painted or sculptural (I will have to blog on that concept separately). Barbara Davis held great promise since she represents Julie Mehretu, whose work I really like. So Davis had a group show called Txmas, which was intriguing. I liked Paul Fleming's Azusa and Ann Stautberg's photographs.

From there we went on to see the Andrea Zittel show at the Contemporary Arts Museum. I have seen some stunning shows at the CAM, and this one definitely makes the list. I really like Zittel's work. Her investigative approach to life and our routines is fascinating, and her compulsion to create order is fascinating. I feel like I *totally get her* the quality of the work is stunning too. I don't think she could do this without the fine craftsmanship she exhibits. The only piece I didn't think translated so well into a museum piece was the berlin piece where she created a space completely devoid of any time (no windows, clocks etc) and lived in it doing whatever her body dictated, without the influence of "time." The escape vehicles, uniforms, homestead units etc. all seem more remniscent of the type of work created by artists in the 1960's (I wonder why that is - if it is a cold war mentality?) but resonate with our world today.

We also made a quick stop at the Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts. Which is a nice idea (artists and artisans working in the space which also has an exhibition space and store), and is an attempt to raise awareness about contemporary crafts. I didn't find much of interest there though and am still pondering the art v. craft discussion (which I so often do). The work featured here is clearly more in the craft camp which is more interesting as a consumer product...

The best part find of the trip though was a lovely place called "Mission Burrito" which we just happened to find listed in a little brochure we picked up at Avis. It was damn near an SF burrito and was so good we went back twice! The burritos were ginormous and you got to pick out all the stuff you wanted piled inside. We got to sit on the patio under the limbs of one of those gorgeous huge trees you find in the south. It was really really yummy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm not convinced...

Been hearing a lot about the Pixar show at the MoMA. And granted I haven't felt any desire to go to the MoMA since I returned to NYC about 6 months ago, but it is ruffling a lot of feathers in the "art world."

I just read the Modern Art Notes post in reaction to Roberta Smith's "review". But I have to say that I am not entirely convinced. Yes, I would rather see more artists in the museum than corporations, but I agree with Smith (reluctantly) that it is part of the museum's purview to examine the visual items (including product design, fashion, etc) which inhabit our culture. Wouldn't it therefore make sense to investigate something as pervasive as blockbuster films?

Maybe the mistake is selectively showcasing a single corporation (which Smith touches on briefly) within the world of digital animation, perhaps the "community" would be better served by including other CG filmmakers (Disney, Dreamworks, or hey what about some independent animations!) or a look at all alternative blockbuster film types - they could have coincided with the Wallace and Grommit popularity by including Aardman Animation.

So perhaps Smith is right, the lack of a catalog doesn't help the MoMA in its justification of showcasing a corporation's (a single corporation)'s output. Put it in writing, tell us (the uninformed public) WHY Pixar is an important thing to view in the hallowed setting of the MoMA. Putting something like this in the MoMA imbues it with some kind of visual cultural importance, tell us what that is, or at least begin the dialog...

Don't get me wrong, I don't really support this kind of thing, and I won't be going to see the show, but I haven't seen a convincing argument as to why this is so wrong (other than my theory on the lack of diversity)...

Any thoughts?

(off topic: I have a lot of articles bookmarked to read and comment on, and I have updates to post on work in progress, just been awfully busy - getting some work done and re-photographed my portfolio - thanks Peter! Hope to catch up on things this weekend).

Friday, December 09, 2005

So its called 'works in progress'

I called this blog 'works in progress' for a couple of reasons: 1) to post actual work that I am working on... 2) its a place for rough and raw thoughts and ideas on art, art theory, culture and criticism.

I have been neglecting number 1 lately. So here goes. I have been enamored with obsessive drawings for a little while now. I am working on some white ink on film drawings of abstractions of 'crystallization'...
I filled it in almost to the center, and was then going to cut out the center... Looking back at this picture I like it better at this stage...

Also I am continuing on the large scale "soma" series:
It's really hard to see the ink and graphite on this because of the board behind it (I need that for a smooth drawing surface). I finished the first layer (86"x48") of this drawing, and am almost finished with the first layer of the second in the series (pictured on the left). I am thinking of doing 2-3 layers for each of 8-10 drawings. Whew, I could use that studio space. And um, a stipend...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The manifesto

So here's the manifesto I have been talking about. Sorry if you get this feed twice, I couldn't figure out how to get it off my phone other than doing a moblog, and then I wanted to go in and edit it a bit...

What's wrong with feeling uplifted, enriched, empowered by a beautiful work of art?

Why are so many contemporary artists more concerned with presenting work that is more about a singular point of view -a mass media-like commentary - or an object of shock, horror or abject thing-ness?

In this time of information overload, I say bring back beauty! In this time of mass production, global markets and worldwide distribution, I say bring back obsessively created works of timeless beauty. In this time of high tech high speed networks of precision, I say bring back hand crafted, thoughtful works of beauty.

This time, this age, needs more patience, more intimacy, more reflection.

Give up your obsession for whats hot, whats now, whats young and cool, bring back work that is timeless, fulfilling, nurturing, well crafted, detailed, thoughtful, and, most importantly, BEAUTIFUL.

This may continue to get worked on, but don't be surprised if you start seeing wheatpostings in chelsea and drop cards in galleries and cafes... If you want to assist, let me know...

The time is coming

I have been working on a little manifesto that I am calling "bring back beauty" I have been thus far a little hesitant to post it, as I wanted to work it over a bit, but the tribes are gathering and the voices are clamoring... well at least one voice is speaking loudly. The voice is J.T. Kirkland over at Thinking About Art.

Tuesday, J.T. posted about the Turner Prize winner Simon Starling and about the frightening loss of "beauty" in contemporary art. It also triggered a little bit of a discussion about obsessiveness and craftsmanship in art. Which led to the post today (Thursday). Which pulls quotes from Jerry Saltz's "Clusterfuck Esthetics" which is posted on artnet magazine. J.T. goes on to discuss his thoughts on (and I am paraphrasing here) crappy male dominated installation work and the female dominated obsessive work that is precise, organized and detailed. First of all I want to say that I COMPLETELY agree with J.T. on this. I do wonder (as he does) about Saltz's theory of creating works that have to compete with the chaos in our everyday world. I haven't really studied this in any depth, but I would imagine that the works that we consider timeless are not merely copying their environment, but reacting to it, by reacting against it... Will have to think about that more.

These "sprawling, often infinitely organized, jam-packed carnivalesque installations" are becoming more and more frequent in galleries and spaces in nyc, most only interesting for what they contain, not what they are. (Which is different, I think from what Sarah Sze is doing). I also find that many of these installations are poorly constructed (on purpose) which only creates distraction. (Phoebe Washburn's piece at the Sculpture Center comes immediately to mind).

I would think that there would be more of a backlash against our world where things are mass made quickly and lacking in craftsmanship (H&M, IKEA), would bring forth a celebration of fine craftsmanship and attention to detail in the arts. And actually I see this all the time, in numerous artists who are working but not necessarily receiving a lot of attention. I think of Michele Kong's obsessive sculptures, Yuko Oda's insects, Sky Kim's manic drawings, Sarah Bostwick's subtle and detailed mappings and Chris Natrop's painstaking paper cuttings, just to name a very few...

So because of this, and well the things I am seeing out in the galleries, I think there is a call for me to post and distribute that manifesto (such an intimidating word! but the definition isn't really: A public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially of a political nature.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cold winds and hot boilers

A cold day on the island, a precursor to the snow to come...

I met up with my friend Sky to go visit the galleries in Chelsea, trying to catch a lot of the shows before they ended that day. Some really worthwhile shows out there, just be prepared to freeze on the streets (with the cold wind blowing off the hudson) and boil in the galleries (with overactive radiators)...

The best of:

Our favorite show was clear and away the Bill Viola show at James Cohan gallery. He has once again captured all that is good about video art. His pieces explored the elements and human interaction. All of the works were incredibly sharp digital videos (the crispness just made them more tactile) run at very very slow frame rates. The colors and shapes were delicious, there were many pieces, and it is worth spending about half an hour watching the various pieces, I won't give away too much though :) go see for yourself!

We also enjoyed Mona Hatoum's show at Alexander and Bonin - playful and sometimes disturbing sculptural creations. I especially liked the woven lights in the 3rd floor space. Just a couple of door's away, Bellweather had *another* good show, this time it was Marc Swanson - he was showing some visually stunning sparkly deer heads and antlers. In the back room he had constructed, as Tyler Green (Modern Art Notes) calls it a "post-apocalyptic forest." I hadn't really thought about that when we were there in the space, but yeh, I guess I could go with that. The striking thing about the work is that it was truly engaging. We spent a lot of time walking around looking at things, trying to construct a story about what it was, and we all had different opinions on what things might be or mean. Thats good art in my opinion.

We happened upon some fabulous drawings at Mixed Greens by Joan Linder, and enjoyed seeing Tara Donovan's "Untitled (Paper Plates)" at Pace Wildenstein. We dropped by ZieherSmith to see what Tucker Nichols is up to - always intriguing.
Nancy Spero's Cri du Coeur at Galerie Lelong was lush and intriguing. (Favorite gallery spaces: Mixed Greens, very neo japanese noodle bar, and Spike, old world bank style).

Things that were a pass: Tracey Emin at Lehman Maupin.
The work was typically self involved, and completely uninteresting other than trying to figure out whether it was handmade or machine sewn. And her neon light tube just looked like a weak version of Monica Goetz' work at James Nicholson gallery (which I blogged here and here). I was looking forward to Polly Apfelbaum's work at D'Amelio Terras, but was dissappointed, her colorful floor works are far more appealing.

The day was just another wonderful reminder of why I moved back to NYC. And it culminated with rubbing elbows with Woody Allen at an opening, and running into the always fun and fabulous Scott Keating 22nd and 10th ave.

Sorry it took a while to post this, we have had internet issues. Also, for those leaving comments, I haven't figured out how to respond to them :) so thanks for the notes, and Joy- definitely send pictures!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The power struggle - or, uh, structure

I recently read an article in New York Magazine about Tracey Emin (not a fan of her work). One of the most poignant statements was something to the affect of artists in the UK are the power people, unlike in the US where the gallerists are the stars of the artworld. So why exactly is that?

If, as Olu Oguibe says, the artists have ceded power to the gallerists and dealers. Why are we (artists in the US) whimpering on our knees to the gallerists, begging them to take us on, 'please please show me, I will be good and make lots of work so that you can make money off of me!" This structure has always bothered me, and was re-enforced by statements in How to Survive... which I read years ago.

There are some important things for us, as artists to remember:
1) we make art because we love making art, no matter what we are going to keep making art (right? imagine being asked by someone to give up making art, what would you replace it with - for me its not even something I can toy with thinking about)
2) if it were not for us making art, there would be no jobs for all the curators, arts administrators, gallerists, dealers, critics, publishers, etc etc etc. So its pretty shocking that artists are not treated better than they are.

This is crass over-generalization, there are many many gallerists and administrators etc who really love the art and artists and are trying to promote them, BUT there is a massive imbalance in power.

Here's the actual Emin quote from the article "“In London the artists rule,” Emin says, “but in New York the galleries do. Gallerists here seem to be almost patriarchal figures, and the art scene is really male-dominated here. In London it’s a lot more open to women."

Here are some ways to change that:
1) Support alternative venues and methods of showing, like Budget Gallery
2) Curate your own damn shows! There are a number of venues in New York, DC, Boston, Philly and SF which are open to curatorial propositions. (Gigantic Art Space, Smack Mellon, Works/San Jose, SF Arts Commission Gallery, Oakland Art Gallery, Slought Foundation)
3) Make some statements, write manifestos, distribute them.
4) Consider some guerilla propoganda and art showings.

Thats just the beginning. I don't know if we can invert the balance, but we can certainly try. If you are interested in joining me in making the Budget Gallery happen on the east coast, email me. Also, if you have other ideas let me know, as well as alternative venues and calls for curating, I will continue to add to the list.

(And yeh, I am going to Chelsea anyway tomorrow, and I will be going to see the Emin work...)
(And I will post my own manifesto in a day or so, I have written it, but want to refine it a bit)