Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Fou Factor

The thing about the sketch approach is that you’re working on being both loose and rigorous at the same time. You’re leaving room for chance, for un-self-consciousness, while concentrating on improving a particular form or thought or sentence. For me, the thinking and rigor have always come more easily than the letting go. So I’m basically thrilled when I catch a glimpse of the unplanned peeping through. But in the end, it is a balance I’m after.

Chance for chance’s sake – just like expression for expression’s sake – bores me. I find it shallow, narrow. It is therapeutic, for sure, but it’s also self-indulgent if the work you’re making is for public viewing. Like Munch’s Scream: I’m not into it. Although I get where it comes from. Pierrot Le Fou, however, I love (the film had no screenplay).

So rigor is key for me. Another word for rigor might be boundary. Yes, everyone has a different definition of boundary.

All this to say that I enjoyed this quote in Anthony Lane’s portrait of filmmaker Michael Haneke (his films are most unenjoyable however) in this week’s New Yorker.
One tries to re-create the complexity of life, but in a completely orderly way. I don’t believe in chance during shooting. Chance is a gift of the moment, if that exists, but it’s an exception. You have to prepare a chance for an actor, for instance, and push him into a certain situation. But I don’t at all believe in the improvisational method.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sketch Approach

Sometimes I feel like giving up the blog so bad.

I think the reason I keep it going is like the reason I go to the gym. It makes me feel better, it makes me look better. But do you realize what a pain it is?

A new tactic I’m trying is sketching. You don’t make one drawing, you make ten, and of the same thing. Then you make a bunch more the next time. Of the same thing. It’s a certain understanding that it takes making many to be able to start seeing what's really successful.

This approach has also served me well in the paintings I started last week. It takes a certain courage to completely obliterate a days worth of work by going over it, but with my sketching muscle building up, it’s getting easier, because the weight isn’t as heavy.

And, to my great surprise, I’m also able to apply the strategy to video work. I’m currently developing a new set of text-based interruptions for a video festival. I’m calling them 8 Electric Interruptions. That’s a still above.

So, what does this all mean for this writing here?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vermeer Viewing

I’m blog blocked, so I’ll just quote. Here’s Peter Schjeldahl’s description of Vermeer viewing at the Met from last week’s New Yorker (you may need a dictionary). Now this is a testament to the power of art (at least it is if you’re an art lover):
But a little patch of lapis-lazuli-tinted white, describing backlit linen in the head scarf of the Met’s “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher,” would have killed me a long time ago, if paint could. […] The entering sunlight sustains all manner of ravishing adventures, throughout the picture, but the incidental detail of the head scarf has affected me like a life-changing secret, whispered to me alone. I revel in it each time I see it – having misremembered it, of course, since the last time, helpless to retain the nuance of the color and the velleity of the painter’s touch. “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” is a Sermon on the Mount of aesthetic value, in which the meek – or, at least, the humdrum, involving trifles of a prosperous but ordinary household, on an ordinary day – inherit the earth. Beholding it, I feel that my usual ways of looking are torpid to the point of dishonoring the world. At the same time, I know that my emotion is manipulated by deliberate artifice. An artist has contrived to lure me out of myself into an illusion of reality more fulfilling than any lived reality can be.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mini Gallery Crawl

Two shows on the Lower East Side are well worth it.

Spaced Out / On Time, a selection of paintings by a group of artists (including my current fave Chris Martin, who seems to owe a lot to Dona Nelson, also represented) at Canada.

And Within Area Although, paint on photographs and a Cocteau-like sculptural installation by Carter, at Salon 94 Freemans.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

See This

On occasion, I'll be posting selected work by various artists. No text, just image.

You can email jpegs, with title and size, for consideration for future "See This" posts. We start with moi.

Molly Stevens, Tiptoe I, 9" x 12", 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

I am a gong, you are a gong

I had my first gong bath, folks. While I was too scared to leave my body completely, that was certainly a possibility.

While lying on the floor, what you hear and feel are vibrations from an oceanic and at times frightening sound, which is obtained not only by drumming the instruments but by rubbing their metal surface. The most immediate effect for me was an intense desire to laugh, something that was particularly triggered by master Don Conreaux’s curious reflection, “I am a gong. You are a gong.” The symptom is apparently a common one, indicating, for one, that the solar plexus has been tickled. On more psychological terms, the need to laugh also comes from a release of tension, or perhaps as a release of tension.

Conreaux (that’s him above) had this to say in an interview:
[…] The idea is of these quasi-periodic patterns that come out of the chaos, the great ocean around us. We can begin to find these patterns. That’s actually what you listen for. When you teach people to play gong, you have to direct their ears into a particular area so they’ll catch onto it and go with it, but the patterns that you can create with the gong are in a strange place. They are in a non-dimensional world. […] You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Everything seems to be right there, like the thousand angels on the head of a pin. […]
I think it’s fascinating. It makes you exercise a certain part of the brain that has to do with intuition. 90% of our brain is still undeveloped, and it’s all in that area of the frontal cerebral cortex, which has to do with intuition. So, as we help people develop their intuition, they use more of their brain. I think that’s going to be the great value of this music.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fall Preview

(Urs Fischer, You, 2007)

Ever feel like you’re making, making, making, thinking, evolving, envisioning a future, but absolutely no one really cares?

Ever feel like you’re in it alone, really alone? Like you’d really like someone to ask you everyday how your work is going and be interested, so interested in fact that this person would even make a few calls for you?

Ever think the reason why the conversation veers from your art to your day job, or to your friends’ lives, or your family, or your financial hurdles, is not because it’s the natural flow of dialogue, but because your work actually sucks?

Would you keep making work even if you thought it sucked? Is there a reason to?

Ever notice how shitty you are at self-promotion?

Ever know that you’d be a great gallery artist, that you could make enough work, that you’d be heaven to work with, that if only someone would let you in, you’d do more than your share?

Ever just want to unsubscribe from those monthly mailings from the handful of galleries you can bear to visit, cancel the Artforum, skip over the listings in the New Yorker?

Ever wonder how that motherfucker got the show?

Every wonder why it’s so hard for them just to answer the goddamn email?

Welcome to the new art season. Enjoy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Romantic is a concept coined from a prosaic mindset

(Walton, New York, 2006)

I was glued to Tom Vanderbilt’s review in the Times yesterday of Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. The book takes a look at how unexpected chaos – earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks - gives rise to exceptional acts of kindness, cooperation, and improvised collaborative effort aiming to restore order and help those who need it. While these brief intervals are just that – brief - they put us in touch with not only the apocalypse, but also with utopia.

I think of the 2006 flood here in Walton – it is still referred to in daily conversation as “the flood” – when an unknown neighbor, who had just lost his home, decided to come up the road to help Marc build a makeshift damn to protect ours.

The author argues that the idea of widespread looting, rioting, mass panic and general mayhem are mostly myths, ones perhaps generated by those in positions of power concerned about challenges to their legitimacy.

I could not help but think that this is precisely what art aims to do – or at least it is what I have in the back of my mind as one of art’s possibilities. It can offer a version of better, even if it is through strife and horror. Sometimes it is only perceived by the artist, who through the process of making, emerges from mud to reach a clearing; sometimes it is perceived only by a single viewer, who in looking at a representation of hell, has a visceral understanding of either what is or what could be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Any survey of contemporary video art must inevitably include the growing genre of quirky, oddball “performances” à la Marina Abramovic whose seminal work in the 70s (above with Ulay, 1977) was/is an inspiring staple in art school (after too). You know the kind I mean: a person wraps herself in duct tape; another binds herself to the ground with rope, puts a pin in her mouth and pops balloons falling from above. Once you’ve seen a gazillion of these, though, they lose their power and become simply an imitation of a concept about video art in galleries.

That said, on Tuesdays and Thursdays here in Walton, New York, the local auction house does its thing from six to nine. If I could represent the arbitrary flurry of activity there, I think I’d be up for the next Hugo Boss Prize. But, in all likelihood, I’d fall into the trap of “pseudormance,” mentioned above.

But picture this: a never-ending multi-person parade of objects carried poker face before the camera to the singsong of bidding. A cooler, a pair of yellow rain boots pulled from a hamper, a grandfather clock, a water softener, two sets of flowered sheets, a mountain bike, headlights, a vacuum cleaner (turned on to show that it works), five stuffed animals, sixteen glasses that say the big cheese, a beer stein, and a cast iron headboard.

The press release would say, “In this piece, Stevens re-creates the chaos of consumerism, where value has lost its logic, and the object prevails over our every activity. At the same time, she presents a perhaps more accurate depiction of non-linearity in our lives.”