Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just Vice, Not Miami Vice

I had a nice visit with a painter yesterday whose palette includes bright yellow and orange. She told me about a young curator who commented that her work was “so 80s, like Miami Vice.” The curator saw neon and thought Don Johnson?

I can only sneer at omnipresent, kneejerk comparisons to pop culture. What ever happened to references to art history, or psychology, or just something else other than TV? Of course, viewers are free to make their own associations, as are artists. The pool is very deep. But curators should really aim to broaden and expand notions of color, form and subject. My opinion.

And why does the fashion – literally the clothes – of these same curators have to be so referential too? The mega glasses and t-shirts with outdated puns look stupid. Also my opinion.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not with a bang, but a whimper

(Derrick Adams, The Lieutenant, 2010, 63" x 24")

And so “Out of Line” closes at the end of the week. A year in the making, my expectations were high. I had hoped for sales (none so far), a visit from Roberta (I don’t even know if she got our invitations), a new “whooohooo” opportunity. But really, this show is just another step down the long road.

The coherence of the work in the exhibition, my talk, and all the other preparations did bear fruit. We had success, both public and private (personal encouragement, some new acquaintances, the New Yorker for example). But it’s a splash of cold water in the face to learn how much an artist can’t rely on the goodwill of any potential visitors or art-world professionals once the show is up. Really, if you want to make inroads in terms of making a public name or career for yourself, you’ve got to be alpha-male aggressive, opportunistic, even over-bearing. It's a slog. I can’t say that’s my cup of tea.

But, I do want to make work still, and that’s the only reason to stay in the game.

All you need is one partner to keep going.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


(Huma Bhaba, Bumps in the Road, 2008)

Along with “physicality,” the buzzword of the moment (in art of course) seems to be “primitivism.” My BFF (and we haven’t even met yet) Christian Viveros-Fauné, uses it in his article in the Voice today.

"Homunculi" [the current show at Canada] introduces largely accomplished versions of a newly popular trend toward artistic primitivism.”

This term seems to describe art that displays a rawness of expression that is reminiscent or suggestive of either “primitive” cultures – like Africa? I thought we were over that designation – or that borrows from prehistoric peoples, or that is somehow naïve or outsider. I think I prefer the term rawness or intuitive, although that might be too psychological, and not ethnographic enough, if that matters.

An artist I know said this word was used to describe the work of Huma Bhabha. I dig her.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What (the hell) is Modernism?

(My friend visiting Out of Line)

There are words that are slewed through art circles without a care in the world. “Conceptual” used to be my pet-peeve. If someone says your piece is conceptual, it usually means they don’t get it. To me “conceptual” means work stemming from the Conceptual Art movement in the 60s. It doesn’t mean any piece that makes you think. Let’s move on.

Distopian and ontological. I’m not that interested in exploring these terms right now.

What I want to look at today is the word “Modernism.” There was a time when “modern art” meant “of our times” (Museum of Modern Art). Now we have the word “contemporary” for that. Today “Modernism” should really mean "of the period around the early twentieth century when breaking new ground away from tradition was a primary interest." I’m pretty sure Matisse, T.S Eliot, and Cubism are considered Modernists.

Then I hear “Modernist architecture.” This seems to be the embrace of “technology” in architecture in the 40s and 50s – is that right? - ,which yielded sleek design (the Seagram Building, for example). From our present-day perspective “Modernist architecture” is really retro architecture.

But then there’s “modernism” meaning "relating to self-consciousness and subjectivity." The Abstract Expressionists are modernists, for example. With the term “post-modernism,” the idea of the self became a thing of the past, because the self was deemed impossible to define narrowly (Hey, some people are black and some people are white). But I don't think "modernist" artists are trying to peg anything, really. The approach or filter is just the individual, as I see it.

Many theory-based artists and writers seem to have disdain for strains of modernism in contemporary art (thick paint, psychological bents, the human touch) because it somehow denies that there are systems in the world. Bah. You can favor the mark of the hand and know FedEx exists.

Readers: do I have most definitions of modernism covered here in the most cursory way?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mini gallery crawl

(Tuckery Nichols, Untitled, 2010, shoe soles and wood, 3 x 3 x 3 inches)

Can’t wait to get back into the studio. What really matters in all of this is making I think. I just wouldn’t be able to keep up full time with the rest: the networking, the emails, the thanking, the making sure this, making sure that. I’m certainly not complaining about finally being at the beginning of an art career. It’s simply that it’s a lot of paperwork! And it’s very draining at times.

To refuel, viewing art helps.

I particularly liked Tucker Nichols’ refreshing show at ZieherSmith. While it could potentially come across as faux-naïve, the work feels unguarded and playful. Down the block, Josephine Meckseper’s installation at Elizabeth Dee feels the opposite: deliberate and cool, heady and insider.

Over on 22nd Street, a small show of Paul Bloodgood’s paintings at Newman Popiashvili is big. The press release indicates Bloodgood’s interest in how painting can veer from self-expression. It’s interesting to read about (if I understood it correctly), but when I look at his work – and perhaps at art in general - , I can’t help but think it just IS self-expressive. It has a human touch and that's what I like about it. And the rest is the rest.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Out of Line in the press

"Out of Line" is on the Short List in this week’s New Yorker in the Goings on About Town section! Whooooo! Oh, I mean, "I am so pleased."

This Saturday I will be giving an unconventional slide-presentation that will expand on the show.

The presentation is a subjective survey of what line is and has been in visual art and other domains, including sports, war, language and spiritual practice. I travel far and wide from Matisse to Charles Ray, from my bathroom calendar to a chorus line, from vectors to the most delicate grape leaf outlined by Ellsworth Kelly.

Please come.

June 5 at 5pm.
Slag Gallery
531 West 25th St., Ground 10