Monday, March 31, 2008

No Pulse

I don’t ever want to go to an art fair again.

1. The booths look like shit. Cheap walls with white tape covering the joints. Bad lighting. No windows. Handmade sticky labels that are crooked.

2. The art looks like shit. Because of the mall-like set-up, all meaning is lost. Everything seems gimmicky and shallow.

3. I spend my time either dodging people I don’t feel like talking to, or seeking out people I think I should show my face to, in the hope that some day, they’ll be helpful to me. Gross.

4. I end up feeling entirely insecure, inadequate and depressed, not only about my work, but about my personality and my goals.

Why would I try so hard to “get into” a scene like this? All it has done is stopped me from making stuff.

I want out. And I wasn’t ever even in.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Subjective Wow

Wondrous moments in art viewing are when the work uncannily reflects and speaks to your own experience, taking you to another level of awareness. They are rare, but mark the potential of image making.

Such was the case when I saw Bert Teunissen’s photographs of Domestic Landscapes, portraits of old-world Europeans in their homes. It’s the Belgium series that did me in, as I spent many formative summers as a small child in houses exactly like these, with a very specific kind of beige couch topped with thick lace and stocky women with impressive bosoms.

Seeing the photographs felt like a gift to my memory.

Above is one of Teunissen’s images. And here, a still from a my documentary short Mademoiselle Helene.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Wind Will Blow Where it Will

You either love him or you fall asleep. Robert Bresson. Or maybe you haven’t heard of him. He’s a French filmmaker who worked mostly in the 50s and 60s. His best known film is probably Pickpocket (1959), famous especially for a train corridor theft, that is fast paced, but does not resort to any overt film devices.

I just rented A Man Escaped (1956), which in French, has a beautiful second title that can be translated The Wind Will Blow Where it Will (Le vent soufflé où il veut). The film is economical and sparse, and follows in minute, almost boring detail, the escape process of a French prisoner in occupied France. What it shows, it does through subtext: an intense spirit of protest as a fuel of life. Not in this country!

One of the most moving characters – although it’s hard to use “moving” or “character” to describe Bresson – is the prisoner next door to the protagonist, who at first shows reticence and even antagonism towards his neighbor’s plans. But, by the end, he has come to hope, almost as a redemption.

I recommend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artist Mind

I’m reading Mark Epstein’s Psychotherapy Without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective. The chapter entitled “Meditation as Art, Art as Meditation: Thoughts on the Relationship of Nonintention to the Creative Process” may seem to prop up past movements as new (abstract expressionism), but I think its points are entirely relevant to studio time today.

Here’s the low down:

The process of making of art involves a shift in consciousness, one in which the “self” gets out of the way, leaving room for a jumble of feelings and thoughts, both pleasant and unpleasant. This shift involves being present to the mind, but not taking control of it (like what occurs during meditation). This means the artist has to let go of the idea of what art is.

Artists in the 50s, many who attended D.T. Suzuki’s lectures at Columbia University, keyed into this concept of going beyond intellection and abstraction. For example, John Cage drew on chance to write music; Philip Guston aired his figurative demons at night in his studio; Agnes Martin created a personal vocabulary of markings.

Is this an awareness that is useful for today? I think so. It is the process of controlled letting go that I think makes the most meaningful art. This doesn’t mean we have to spend our days making circles with ink.

To quote Agnes Martin:

“The artist’s own mind will be all the help he needs. There will be moving ahead and discoveries made every day. There will be great disappointments and failures in trying to express them. An artist is one who can fail and fail and still go on.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

Snark Fest

Isn’t this just a great quote from Peter Schjeldahl's review of the WB in The New Yorker!

"Then there’s Rachel Harrison, the leading light of new sculpture, with objects and collages that combine trashy bric-a-brac, vulgar images, and slathered paint with an uncanny confidence, as if she knew precisely what she means—and you would, too, if you were just the littlest bit smarter than you are."

PS: Thanks to Dana for stepping up to the plate as our first Friday Guest Writer! Looking forward to more from her!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Visual Enigma: Pre-Photoshop

I have blog block.

Here’s a Mario Giacomelli photograph from 1964-65 that I’ve never been able to figure out. Any one want to take a stab at what exactly is going on?

PS: I'd still like to open my blog on Fridays to guest writers. Please let me know if you're interested in contributing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Me and the WB

I haven’t yet been to the WB (as they’re calling it), but I better go this week. The show already seems like old news.

One of my most vivid fantasies is to be included in the biennial. Not only do I envision it to be the gateway to a stable career in art, but I really can’t imagine a better ego stroke. It’s to the point where I actually feel jealous reading the reviews (that is, way more than usual).

The jealousy has taken a different spin this year, though. So far, I can say that I've also made two of the pieces in the biennial. Believe me, believe me! For months I’ve been fiddling with the idea of therapy as performance art (see Bert Rodriguez), and also a series of drawings under hypnosis (Matt Mulican). If I had only run with the ideas (I dream)! Art is all about taking something to its end. That’s something to remember.

Wait a second. It wouldn’t have turned out the way they did it anyway. But, oh yeah, there is something to zeitgeist. There is something to inevitably being part of your times. And there is something to the fact that artists of the WB type are a demographic. We - I say brazenly - are all onto the same ideas.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Everyone's a critic

I'd like to open my blog to guest writers on Fridays. I'm open to beyond-art subjects.

Feel free to email me with proposals for entries or a series of entries (my email can be accessed through my website, under MY WORK).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Not the Clinton Machine

On an itty-bitty visit to Chelsea yesterday, I stopped in at Sean Kelly Gallery and was drawn in by this Mapplethorpe photograph of John McKendry. Many photographers attempt to crop faces and make visual use of things like outlets or New York City radiators, but, this image, I think, does so successfully, because it does so without pretension. It reminds me of the graphic do-dads in Roger Ballen’s work. For example:

You’ll find further visual pleasure at Peter Blum right next door. Rosy Keyser's paintings and drawings prove that materials sometimes are best comprehended when seen, not written about.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Où est le vin?

Looking for a depressing movie to snuggle up to?

I highly recommend Agnès Varda’s Vagabond (available via Netflix), a film about a young woman drifting across the south of France, encountering other lonely people who yearn to be free but who are stuck instead. Combining fiction and documentary, photography and moving image, this film will make you feel just terrible - which is great in my book.

On the technical side, I particularly enjoyed the repeated use of heavy fade-outs, the occasional incredibly short scene, and the fantastic color (despite the black and whte still above).