Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Facts are not feelings

(Qu Ding, Summer Mountains, handscroll, Norther Song Dynasty (960-1127)

If I feel miserable about the way a drawing is coming out, it does not mean the drawing will have a miserable look. If I feel sloppy, it may not look sloppy. And if I feel like it sucks, the drawing may not suck. Facts are not feelings. That still rings true for me.

I’ve tended to think that a drawing will show the state of the artist while making that drawing. In many ways it does. A tense hand will usually make a tense line. But being aware of one’s state and controlling one’s state, doesn’t mean the drawing is aware or controlled. Drawings can mean and point to many things beyond what we’re conscious of. And sometimes they don’t.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A talk with Nils Folke Anderson

Check out the talk on the Donkey Trail. Nils is one of the artists in Out of Line (which opens on May 20!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


(Mark Rothko, Orange and Yellow, 1956, about 6 feet x 7.5 feet (big))

The over-press about the play “Red” is such that I really know I don’t want to see it. But I have a lot to say about it nonetheless. For one, there’s a common idea that art is very serious and profound and that therefore you should engage with art because it’s good for you. The gist seems to be that once you get your culture over with, you’ve earned the shopping spree or banana split.

Of course I do think art can be very serious and profound. But that’s a second layer. That’s a bonus. What tends to be forgotten is that looking can be a pleasure (even if it’s a painful pleasure); it can expand your outlook and it can be deeply stimulating. But looking takes practice and confidence - am I seeing the right thing? - in other words, looking implies a building up of visual literacy. And boy is that a dying value.

I’ve always been drawn to Rothko first and foremost because of the wordless moods and deep color of his paintings, not because he was depressed, or articulate, although the former feeds a myth I enjoy and the latter is helpful.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The corny factor

(Amanda Ross-Ho, Bedroom Bandit, 2010)

At the risk of narrowing my field of vision, what I seem to want these days in my art viewing is just a dish of personal meat, hold the irony and hold the headiness. I visited a string of Chelsea galleries last week and I have nothing to report. I went around looking for a spark of spirit – something that speaks of the artist’s personal punch – but found only pastiche and pose. I do understand that originality is null and void, but is searching and experiment?

That said, John Bock’s wall hangings at Anton Kern came close. And I think Amanda Ross-Ho at Mitchell-Innes and Nash hit the mark. Her show is a complex and diverse installation and I’ll be going back to try to put some words to it. I especially like a quilt topped by a poster of a David Lee Roth gone tribal.

Because yes, I do think a personal universe is what I’m after as an artist – at least it is these days. I don’t want to make what’s in but what’s true – even if it’s torturous to reveal.

That’s why I enjoyed these lines from Roberta Smith’s review of "Red," a play about Mark Rothko that she thinks is best when silent, like looking. She recounts her own experiences visiting studios:
Also, corny as it may sound, as a young Kansan new to New York, I was always struck by the possibilities of self-invention and the autonomy and individual will that a studio represented, almost regardless of the quality of the art I encountered there. The basic message — especially powerful to a daughter and granddaughter of academics — was that you can do anything you want to; you certainly don’t need a degree or tenure. An artist made this place called a studio and then used it to make this thing called art that no one knew was missing or needed until it existed. (“We are making it out of ourselves,” to quote Rothko’s contemporary Barnett Newman.)