Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The question remains

(Falaknuma Palace,India,1880s)

As you may know, I’ve been translating art-related materials since 1996. I usually consider it my day-job, something to hold me over until I strike it big with art (ummm). What I’m coming to realize is that I’m quite lucky to have the work, the freelancer’s schedule, and also the clients that I do. Hey, I can actually say my name appears in Artforum on a regular basis.

My days can be rather varied. Yesterday, for example, I translated some Derrida and then helped modify the translation of a book on an Indian palace. Both were a trip, literally and metaphorically. And I can thank Derrida and his cohorts for showing me that it’s important to have your writing make sense.

But it’s so hard to do both, translate and draw. There have been many days, of late, when I don’t get to the art-making until evening, and by then, my energy is spent. Sometimes, when I’m busy, I make better art, because I’m crunched, desperate for time. But often, I know I’m not going as deep as I can because I don’t have the time. This, I’m sure, is not unfamiliar to many of you, my few readers.

And sometimes I hate my day job so much I want to cry.

The question remains: When people talk about themselves in direct terms, is it interesting.

Monday, February 22, 2010


(Alberto Giacometti, Fleurs, 1952)

Dear B,

Please get out of my head.

It’s true you meant the world to me as an art teacher. It’s true I felt liberated, inspired by our lessons. Like the time you showed me how to use the eraser to find the line of a drawing, as Giacometti did. Or like the time you told me to stand in front of a Cubist painting until the forms appeared three-dimensional in front of my eyes. You were really a mentor.

But enough now. I cannot draw without hearing your criticism. I will never be as light and loose as Matisse and I’ll always have thumbprints at the edges of my paper. And no, I didn’t sell anything from that show in 2003, even though I was kiss ass enough to get myself in the show to begin with.

I think I saw you on the platform the other day and my heart dropped into my stomach. Shame curdled up as I remembered the way I’ve been handling the oil pastels: sticky, thick, clumsy.

Really, I think it’s best if you just go.

My best to you, MS

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fantasy: It's all unreal anyway

Fantasy and daydreaming were never encouraged where I came from. What counted were “real,” palpable markers of success, like action and result, remuneration and names. There was no point to anything as wasteful and wonton as imagination. The gist was, get there first then we’ll talk about where to next.

But I’m starting to see what fantasy can bring: a wider sense of self, a vision of how something might be, excitement about that possibility – excitement, not obsession - , and even confidence if you have someone who shares it with you. There are many kinds of fantasy, of course. But let’s touch on the kind involved in imagining yourself in the future.

What they say about fantasy is that it means you’re disillusioned. Sure it does – or it could mean that. But what’s harder, actually failing, or predicting that you might fail. (They’re both the same.) Which has a more real effect on your daily life: working in your studio knowing you’re one among millions, or working in your studio imagining what you're making in the project room at David Nolan?

A designer in the Times last week said he was 110, no 200 percent sure he would succeed. He was either lying or is dumb. What I’m talking about is not arrogance, it’s fantasy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Ugly Panic

(Cindy Sherman, Untitled #399, 2000)

You ever step back and know, “Man, that is just ugly! Who would ever want to put that over their couch!”

At this point I could run for refuge in concept. You see, if I favor an idea – say, what the death of authenticity means for the western-male definition of esthetics and the market– over visual communication - and ok, I’ll say it, BEAUTY - it doesn’t matter what the hell it looks like. But concept is often an excuse. Because, the fact of the matter is, it’s hard to make things look great.

The flip side, of course, is decoration-priority work, meaning surface over meaning. Perfect color, complete control, sparkle. That may be worse than concept-priority work. I go back and forth.

But more often than not, I seem to have to enter a certain panic while making a piece – this weekend it was a “that is so ugly” panic - which forces me to make extreme decisions to get myself out of the hole and save my face.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Capitalizing on the Zeitgeist

(Monika Grzymala, Transition, 2006)

Things are in the air, they are. I’ve often been working in a particular medium or on a specific subject or looking at an individual artist only to find out that it’s trendy, or in art speak, that “I’m part of my times.”

Last year, I delved into text-based art and soon found exhibitions all over the city exploring the same. It’s a good feeling, except that I remain in the background...not even the background. The killer was finding a big coffee-table book on the subject at the New Museum this fall. Frankly, I could’ve done a more interesting one. Or at least been in it.

Donkey Trail is really coming together in a very exciting way around the line, which is one reason why I'll be presenting a subjective survey of the line in visual art during the run of the show as an artist's talk. Details to come, of course.

But what’s this? On Line, a show opening at MoMa in November. So, how do you get yourself more on the front line of it all?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who do you think you are?

(Nicole Eisenman, Commerce Feeds Creativity, 2004)

Just to let you know how it works, in case you don’t already know.

You go into a gallery to inquire about an artist. Because you’re over the age of 35, and you’re asking about a specific artist, you get a look in the eyes from the mean but pretty assistant at the front desk. She goes and gets her higher up, who comes out, her hands in prayer position, at a slight bow, as if she were in front of the Dalai Lama. She thinks you’re a collector.

You say you’re a curator to lend some heft to the situation, but her back straightens nonetheless. It would have only been worse to say that you were an artist. Her next question is: “Who are the other artists in the show?” You drop names. Her eyes shift to your shoulder and remain there for the rest of the conversation.

Some blah-blah ensues. “The process is that you write me an email and I’ll forward it to the artist to see if he’s willing to participate.” OK, will do. But you suspect the email will never get to the artist. You brain rack: who else might you know that would get in touch with this artist? And what about a specific piece, you ask? "Oh, because you have a specific piece in mind!" No, no, she's right, you'll take whatever you can get.

It is all about names and who you know, it’s true.

I may post this over on Donkey Trail, not sure.