Monday, June 30, 2008


In Deborah Solomon’s interview with Peter Schjeldahl, the New Yorker art critic, in the June issue of the Artforum, it’s nice to read how a person can love words, their sound, their rhythm, their imagery.

DS: I’ve always admired the range of your language. In your criticism, you use a lot of slang – goofy, dude, oomph, shuddery, ingratiation-free, artistic outlawry – in combination with fancy vocabulary words, such as basilisk or raddled or epicene.

PS: Criticism joins poetry, for me, in having a civic duty to limber up the common word stock, keeping good words in play. My sidekick is the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

Limber up. Keeping words in play. Nice.

It reminds me that we speak and write in metaphor all the time. We can chose our words like a creative act, but mostly we use these images and parallels unknowingly. Food for thought (for example).

And from the same interview. This cuts like a knife.

DS: Do you feel any paternal obligation toward artists, any pressure to be an advocate for their work?

PS: No. None.

DS: Do you feel moved by the basic nobility of artists, the desire to be alone in a room, trying to add meaningful objects to the world?

PS: There is tremendous poignancy in that, but you know something? It’s a great privilege to be an artist. You get to discover the outer limits of your talent and freedom. You get to see the world from a high place. If you flop and end up with a square job in Dubuque, you will already have a wealth of knowledge and experience that 99.9 percent of humanity can only dream of. Do not whine.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can you say something?

So, here are a few scanned drawings. They look horrible here! Help. I could up the contrast, for sure. [UPDATE: I've played with the curves on the above two drawings. A bit better.]

They look great on my computer. I’m sure there are folks photographing with scanners. They’re fantastic! You can even see the pencil grain.

The installation shot below is lit with umbrellas, and composed of two shots stitched together. First, it's pink, and I don't know how to get rid of that. Second, I'm concerned it doesn't reveal the scale well. What you see is about 12 feet by 6.

All this for an AIM application. My fifth! Is this a lack of self-esteem or a sign of perseverance?

[UPDATE: Same shot with figure for scale reference and some color correction and Photoshop ploys]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bubble Doom

I tend to be effusive. The likes of, “I LOOOOVE your new work,” or “Your gallery is fantastic. The work looks great. I think your program is special. You look great. Where did you buy those fantastic shoes. You’re so pretty. Please, please, please let me be your friend.”

Most of the time it’s sincere. I’m serious. I’m just kind of like this. But, I don’t think it helps. To the contrary.

Everyone knows that you’re twenty times more attractive if you have to be hunted, if you’re a bit out of reach, a bit elusive. This is probably doubly true in the art world.

So, next time I see you, I’m going to try to wait for you to come say hi first.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reproduction Woes

I’ve been trying to photograph some of my drawings for an upcoming application, but I’m having a hell of a time. The lighting is uneven, the line work disappears, the images look dull. I’m guessing that scanning would be best, although, I’d have to do each in parts and then stitch them together.

What’s hardest are the installation shots. I have a wall of about 20 drawings that I’d like to photograph as a whole. Any helpful hints for this do-it-yourselfer?

Oh, and these are some of the drawings I’ve been making. Without getting into my artist statement in progress, they’re text as content and form, word as figuration and narrative, letters as sound and shape.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Chelsea Shows

Saw two interesting shows on Friday.

First, a show of Burt Barr’s videos at Sikkema Jenkins. I had never heard of Barr, but he’s had solo shows at the Whitney and PS1. Somehow, he’s been off of my radar, though.

The show is quite still and not noisy (aside from gun shots – but they’re soft). There are a few projections of continuous loops - for example a frog swimming in place or a two channel piece with a donkey's face in a thunderstorm - and one piece on a monitor. Everything is black and white, and feels like moving photographs. This is how I like my video – pretty much uneventful. I hate when I walk into a long narrative piece and am under the impression that I’ve missed something very important.

Then at Perry Rubenstein, there are small scale, luminous paintings by Gabi Hamm that have an old-master-technique meets contemporary-subject-with-a-tinge-of-morbidness feel. I recommend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I think it’s fair to say that art is only relevant, even only important, in context.

Nothing seemed more absurd to me than contemporary art in Mexico. When I found myself alone on the beach, or on a dirt road in the jungle, or in a village of cabaƱas that are probably $20 / month to rent, Damien Hirst’s diamond skull and the like seemed utterly pointless. Totally uninteresting.

But, today, back at the gym, back to running around like a chicken without a head, I was glued to Roberta Smith’s rave review of the Lichtenstein show at Gagosian uptown.

So, art has no intrinsic, fixed value. And I’d even say, art is of no value at all except to the artist or the art enthusiast.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Susan Meiselas

This past weekend, I worked on a transcription of an interview with Susan Meiselas for an upcoming show at the ICP. I've always associated her name with Nicaragua, and especially the picture of a Sandinista getting ready to hurl a Molotov Cocktail.

It’s so energizing when an artist actually has something to say because she does things (as opposed to an artist who has something to say because she’s thinking in her studio). And if this artist is also articulate, you’ve hit a jackpot. I’m especially excited to see images from Carnival Strippers, a project she worked on between 1972 and 1975. She went in and out of the dressing room to produce images, interviews and a book. From what I’ve seen, the images are sensual, cinematic and, best of all, off the soap box.

Monday, June 2, 2008

More on Words

Now, I’ve done no research on this but…

When Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, was able to make her student understand that the patterns she was signing on her hand corresponded to things around her – she might, for example, pass her hand under water, and then sign “water” on her hand, over and over again – Keller’s world opened up. Language and words, connected her to the world, it broke her out of her isolation.

On the other hand, words are also binding. For example, the women in Jean-Luc Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her repeatedly demonstrate that our words confine our view of the world, assign it a biased value. It might be as simple as calling something a woman, or a shirt blue that bounds our perspective. In this sense, it is politically liberating to break from these codes.

Are these contradictory experiences?