Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shag Time

I’m just coming back from a brief tour of the Lower East Side’s growing art scene. I know I’m about two years late saying this, but, being away from Chelsea is refreshing. First, art doesn’t tower over you in size and price tag. Second, gallery personnel are actually approachable. This said, I’m pleased to announce that I introduced myself to one curator who I’ve been trying to corner for a few months now. And, lo and behold, she was pretty friendly. For a brief moment, I remembered that curators need artists just like artists need curators. So, even though I spoke in a head voice, holding in my words like Kermit the frog, I think my name may stick in her head when I call her in a few weeks time. So this is a boost. Makes me feel like dancing.

The variety of spaces was also enjoyable. I recommend visiting, for example:
Smith-Stewart on Stanton, Salon 94 in Freeman’s Alley, Jen Bekman on Spring, and also Participant’s new gargantuan space on East Houston.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Riding the waves

I have always been ambivalent about the medium of video. Primarily, what bothers me is that it’s time based; absorbing a piece happens over time. This is true of course for every medium. For example, a cubist painting takes shape when you stare at it. But, in video, the scope of a piece is not just right there, which may be a problem only for the impatient.

Here are other contradictory feelings in my head about video.

1. Videos are not tangible, you keep them on the shelf. But, this immaterial-ness skirts a product-oriented market. But an artist needs to sell to live. But, that’s why we have other jobs.
2. Video is a young, fast medium. But, it doesn’t have to be. Youth and pace are just trends.
3. There are no video masters, it’s not a skilled art. But, some video artists take on film-like projects. But, I hate that. Video is a medium unto itself. It shouldn’t be film-like. Anyway, think of what it takes to make a good video and of all the great video artists. Like who?

(image from Lawrence Goldhuber's Asylum)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


On Monday, I was advised by a very prominent person in the art world to move to Berlin. He insisted that if he were starting a career as an artist, that’s where he would go. The scene is fresh, burgeoning, and still accessible to artists who haven’t broken “in.” Furthermore, life is inexpensive. He went on to comment that the time was ripe for me make such a move: I don’t have children, my paid work is portable. The general idea being, what’s there to lose, and think how much there is to gain.

I immediately went into panic mode, thinking that if I don’t move now, I’ll never get anywhere. If I don’t move now, I’ll miss the boat.

But, I have a hard time picturing me going to openings in Berlin, when I can’t even get myself to go here. And the idea of walking into a gallery and actually being able to talk to someone sounds like fantasy. But, that might be because New York galleries are so impenetrable.

So, I will consider it. But, I’ll start with a visit first. Maybe in a few months.

He also suggested LA.

Basically anything but New York.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On View

(Still from Reynold Reynold's Six Apartments, now at Roebling Hall)

Did a crawl through Chelsea today. Here’s some of what I saw:

1. Adrian Paci at Peter Blum on 29th. I very much enjoyed Paci’s videos at PS1 a few years back dealing with families separated by country. In the video on view here, the artist has a weeper and chanter mourn over his body, although he is still alive.

2. If you’re in to “experiences” you can walk into Antony Gormley’s room of dense steam at Sean Kelly also on 29th. I personally was too scared. The signs posted around the gallery warning claustrophobics and panic-types didn’t help.

3. Over at Roebling Hall on 26th and 11th, I was absorbed by Reynold Reynolds two-channel film installation that glimpses at lonely lives lived in separate apartments as well as well as bacteria and maggots. The camera work was a pleasure and the devastation tickles me pink.

4. Also on 26th, at James Cohan, I recommend Folkert de Jong’s decomposing harlequin figures stacked up on one another.

5. Isaac Julian’s multi-channel installation is too slick for me. It was hard to feel past the esthetic perfection. But, there’s a lot of talk about it, so you might want to check it out at Metro Pictures on 24th.

6. I liked the scale and sparseness of Charles Ray’s installation of three sculptures at Matthew Marks on 22nd. The gallery attendants sitting there in the practically empty space, almost sculptures themselves, are a scream. And the young boy playing with a toy car is appealingly forlorn.

7. I’ve heard so many complaints about Kara Walker’s cutouts being repetitive. But, I don’t buy into the critique, especially when seeing her diverse explorations into the medium at Sikkema Jenkins on 22nd. Here’s an artist whose appetite for form and content are equally large.

Monday, November 12, 2007

L'Age d'Or

I recently worked on the translation of a large book about the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank, whose streamlined furniture and empty decors belonged to an avant-garde art scene in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. He rubbed shoulders with a mix of outré artists (Man Ray, Buñuel, René Crevel among them) and art patrons (Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, Nancy Cunard, the Pecci-Blunts), who hosted costume balls, lavish soirées and intellectual powwows. There was opium, rehab, suicide and name-dropping, but also artistic innovation and invention. While it was all a theater of extravagance and superficiality, I’ve got to say, it sounds dynamic and invigorating artistically.

Reading Calvin Tomkins’s portrait of Jeffrey Deitch in last week’s New Yorker, on the other hand, had me lying on my back depressed.

His portrait of today’s dominant art scene is entirely unappealing. Can’t say I didn’t already know, but, come on.

"… Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer said [,] 'The physical presence of the work is not the primary stimulant – they will want to see it already make a lot of impact on the printed page.' That sounds like the see-at-a-glance accessibility of advertising art, which happens to be a prime source for the work of Koons, Prince, Murakami, and a score of other top-selling contemporary masters. It also suggests a kind of art that can just be bought on the Internet, and Deitch confirms that this is the case. ‘We do it all the time,’ he told me. ‘People will ask me to send them a digital image of the next available thing by an artist whose work they know and like, and they will buy from that. It’s completely normal in our business.[...]'The art world used to be a community, but now it's an industry. [...] I try to act responsibly toward the art, but if people offer tremendous anounts of money for it you really can't control that.'"

Any exciting alternatives, I wonder, for the thousand millionth time?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I probably sound like a broken record, but, being an artist is a privilege and a responsibility, a privilege because we get to express ourselves (a function of our social privilege), and a responsibility because we are in the public eye. It is therefore our job to present vision. I adhere to the Modernist perspective that artists should strive for larger meaning, even for the transcendental. It is our role to address the contradictions and sufferings of our time. I also ascribe to the Romantic idea that artists should brood.

How to do both without being didactic is our challenge.

For these reasons, it was a pleasure to read Christian Viveros-Fauné’s scathing review of “The Incomplete” at The Chelsea Art Museum.

He describes the show as presenting:

"an alarming paucity of deep, nettlesome intelligence - a deficit that would raise red flags in any other art market except ours. Fodder for a steady queue of patrons who prefer their expectations tickled rather than trounced, [the works of these artists] have a strong vein of cork running through them: No matter how hard their creators try to push deeper, their art invariably bobs right back up to the surface."

He goes on to say:

“…the cumulative effect of ‘The Incomplete’ is – to take a page from Neil Postman – of a generation amusing itself, if not to death, then into a kind of art-as-medium-of-entertainment obsolescence.”

Well that just about sums up my frustration, Monsieur. I’m assuming your mother-tongue, but, merci beaucoup!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Success's Formula

I received my first antagonistic comment, from anonymous, about my Alex McQuilkin post. Other comments appreciated.

On another note:

At a family roundtable the other night, I was involved in a heated, psychologically charged conversation about success’s formula. The ingredients proposed were: showing up, dint (which I learned means effort), and random (bias, connections, luck). How much of each does it take to make it?

My breakdown of success, as I consider it today, is as follows: 40% showing up, 40% random, and 20% dint.

Sound about right?

Or are we really going to give more credit to trying?