Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An art year in review

(Ellsworth Kelly, White Bands on Yellow, 1950)

I am thankful for a year of many changes art-wise (politically, I had hoped for more. I’m ready to face it).

In terms of my own work, it began with a lecture on text-based art and ended with drawings of Mantegna-like mountains. In between came video interruptions, drawings of trees in the wind, paintings of finger-shoot-dicks, and the important revelation that doing fish pose before you start working releases creativity (It does! Try it!).

In terms of galleries and museums, off the top of my head, I was most impressed with the Kippenberger retrospective at MoMa and with Ellsworth Kelly, both his drawings from the 50s and 60s at Matthew Marks, and his paintings in Cézanne and Beyond in Philly. Neither artist really represents change (really who cares), but my attraction to them does.

I also am grateful to Roberta Smith, who makes me feel that what I’m doing is ok, and especially, especially, especially to a few new artist-friends, who embody the word ComRade (in arms, sure!).

And I am grateful to this annoying blog, which almost no one reads, but which somehow organizes my thoughts. And when you do read or comment, I love you for it, I really do.

That said, the path is still bumpy to say the least. So tune in next year.

Love, Molly

PS: My vote on what to call this past decade, which I can’t say I’m sorry to see end, is “the 9/11 years.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kill Baby, Kill

I am thankful to Dana, of Art on My Mind past, for introducing me to new artspeak: the term in question is “killing the baby.”
Basically, it's that moment when you've been working really hard on something and you realize it's just not going to pan out, so even though everything in you says to just keep it, you've got to just get rid of it, i.e., kill your baby. I just found comfort in the idea that there was something universal trying to hang on to something that needed to be let go of.

[There is] a process to learning when to kill the baby. For [X], I think his writers' group and [Y] in particular helped him learn this by telling him when something really wasn't working and pressing him to cut it out, and eventually he got better at realizing when he was trying to hold onto a baby he needed to kill. For me, I think I learned it through being edited and then self-editing -- there'll be a concept or an argument or a phrase that I think is brilliant, but it just doesn't fit in with the whole, or it just doesn't get me where I need to go. So, I'm getting more efficient at identifying when that's happening. But, it's hard. Especially when it's something I've invested a lot of time or energy in. It's definitely a process.
Below, please view a drawing on a sheet of $48 paper that just could not be saved. RIP, little one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's up in tween culture

Here’s what to mention if you need to impress that eleven year-old in your life this Christmas:

Lady Gaga, and the song Bad Romance. And, gross, what’s with the spine and bulging eyes on YouTube?

Justin Bieber, the fourteen year-old suburban rapper. So hot. That said, MJ is so last summer.

Robert Pattinson from the Twilight movies. Adonis.

And finally, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Squeakquel. And have you seen them singing All the Single Ladies?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Critical Statements

Peter Schjeldahl has made it easier for me to go with my core feeling that the Urs Fischer show at the New Museum is way disappointing and shallow. In particular in his review last week, he mocks the museum behind the show:
It’s all nicely diverting – but from what? If you spend more than twenty minutes with the three-floor extravaganza, you’re loitering. The New Museum could just as well not have done the show while saying it did. The effect would be roughly the same: expressing a practically reptilian institutional craving for a new art star.
Holland Cotter makes MoMa look just as silly. It made Gabriel Orozco’s work look concrete, planned and loud (when it just ain’t). And Cotter's depicts the deference paid to art-starness as frankly smarmy:
During the installation of his exhibition in the kind of white-walled MoMA gallery that that he once spurned, Mr. Orozco, tousle haired and rumpled, received a visit from the museum’s immaculately groomed director, Glenn D. Lowry, whose red silk tie matched his pocket square. “Hola!” Mr. Lowry said, sweeping into the nearly empty gallery, where just a few pieces had been uncrated. “Exciting, exciting.”
The irreverence is refreshing. It is. Would I reject any approach by either of museum? Of course not.

This is how Schjeldahl ends his review this week of the Orozco show, which he views as art historically sensitive:
Pleasure is the only trusty teacher and guarantor of seriousness in art. Why is that so easy to forget?
If by pleasure, he means interest, passion, curiosity, I’d have to agree – even in light of Monday’s post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts from the pit

(Molly Stevens, 2009, acrylic on board, 16" x 20")

I think I’d call it the pit, maybe the hole. It’s that place you find yourself after completing a piece or after hanging a show.

Your options at this point are as follows: get depressed or start something new. I usually spend some time with the former, and then eventually move to the latter. The idea motivating me being: if I keep making, maybe I can redeem myself (because there’s always something to be ashamed about in what you’ve done). So I'm sure there’s possible redemption in the future, and it will come through what I do, I think to myself.

How many of you are motivated by love of what you do? Sure, there are moments of pleasure, but, really. Be honest.

It’s also while I’m in the pit that I start realizing how impossible self-sufficiency really is. As much as I’d like to have full confidence in my inner-voice and where it has led me, what other people think matters. And thank god, really, because otherwise I’d be an arrogant prick. Like that guy. You know who I mean. What’s his name.

But do you think you have to be an arrogant prick to really make a splash? Frankly, I think so. Does splashing make for better art? No. I mean, look at what’s his name. Really.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday Vocab

(O'Shea Jackson, better known as Ice Cube)

When I feel like I’m coming under fire, it’s best for me to keep my emotions under wraps.

In other words:

When I want to disarm my adversary, it is best to stay dispassionate.

I respond by first saying, “that’s interesting.” This passive voice suggests that I feel nothing.

From my perspective” is also a useful phrase introducing subjectivity, without being attacking.

When making art, and dealing with the art world, cooler on the outside is always better.

Take that motherfucker.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Vibrations

(Botticelli's "Annunciation")

Michael Kimmelman does it again. With his usual arrogance, he proves that he does not like art.

Of all the shows in Europe - or even in Germany -, Michael, you could not find one to speak about in more edifying terms?

The Botticelli show at the Städel Museum is the first big survey devoted to him in the German-speaking world. The galleries are annoyingly jammed. It’s like rush hour all day in there.

Am I the only idiot around who still doesn’t quite get his popularity? [...]

You might say Botticelli represents a bygone ideal of high art, with its literary roots in rhetoric and poetry, which is to say only that what attracts so many people to him today surely has to do with something else. Is it all that decorative panache and those pretty, melancholy young women? I suspect, as with van Gogh and Rembrandt, it also has to do with the way he devised a signature style that acts like an advertisement for himself. [...]

The myth of the pining, profligate lover, craving religious consolation in extremis and dying forgotten only to be rediscovered many centuries later as an artistic genius, accounts for his popularity too. His suffering is like van Gogh’s ear, the perfect fictive yeast for celebrityhood.

The truth is something else.

It’s to do with the vagaries of taste.

First, here's a tip, use your New York Times press pass to get you into shows on the day the museum is closed. That way you don't have to mingle with the commoners. Then you might feel less annoyed and find the time to explain why it's so bad for an artist to have a signature style and yet vague taste at the same time.