Monday, January 31, 2011

The art-money disconnect connect

(all I know about this sculpture is that it’s by George Sugarman)

In 2010, I spent $1979.54 on art supplies. My income from drawing was $0. I do believe the Feds at this point will consider art not to be a profession of mine, but a hobby.

Upon realizing this, I unwillingly but finally surrendered to hopelessness, coughing out the following declaration, “making money from drawing is just not going to happen.”

The next day I landed a show in Germany.

Shortly after, I experienced an “I know what I want to draw!” moment. After hours of fun, there were strange heads on my wall.

Last Wednesday, I was finally accepted into the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program.

Today we learned of $800 in dental payments. In January 2011, I earned $733 from translation. At this rate, this means I’m about to hit an art milestone, right?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Esthetic Wanderlust

(Peter Doig, Paragon, 2004, big)

Also on artcritical, you can listen to an opinionated conversation about the celebrity painter Peter Doig. Most of the panel members are scathing about his compositions, subject matter and technique: is it not simply obsolete, if not arrogant, to emulate Gauguin on a far off island in this day and age?

That said, at the end of the discussion, it is concluded that Doig does not so much paint about his subject, as he does use his subject to stake out a position; a position about what painting is for him, or about the psychology of western artmaking. His position, whether he knows it or not, is that he is lost.

I think I could say that my drawings are not about the subject either, but more the result of an approach. Outside the studio, I am well aware that I have only minimal control of my life. When drawing, I recreate this non-control, but can watch myself wrangle with it; I can watch myself take risks, fail, succeed and attempt to organize, as subjective as these terms are. This essentially means that I think drawing is a place to struggle to define. And yet I never can, because I’m always moving to the next thing. And besides, definition is temporary.

Moving to the next thing is esthetic wanderlust. So, in the end, Doig and I share something in common. We are like every other productive person of privilege of our times: searching without a distinct cause, impatient, fickle. And sometimes effective to some.

Does any of this help you see what’s in front of you? No. But it’s food for thought, especially when you’re grantwriting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back to Basics

(Installation view, Vincent Fecteau)

At artcritical, there are engaging recorded discussions about recent exhibitions in the Panel Review section. I turn it on in the studio to distract my thinking mind from what I’m drawing.

In a conversation about the 2009 exhibition of sculptures by Vincent Fecteau, the panelists made distinctions between size and scale, surface and structure. Sounds basic.

As is it is commonly understood, a monument is a commemorative work that usually towers over us. But something relatively small can be monumental not because of its size, but because of its scale. A depiction of a head that is five feet tall is monumental because it’s not human scale, but a five-foot building is not, unless perhaps there are tiny people also depicted. It gets more complicated when forms are not figurative, but abstract.

I’d also add that the monumental is generalized, non-specific. People are archetypes, forms are reductive. That said, I don’t think a monument can’t be intimate, personal.

Intimacy is something that can be offered through scale (or not), but it can also be revealed through surface. For example, if you have a rough, handmade edge on your five-foot head, it will remind us that it was crafted by a person, not at machine. The hand isn’t disguised and therefore the piece comes back down to the human. In art speak, you could say in this case that there’s a tension between scale and surface.

Scale, surface and structure are essentially formal elements in an artwork. Some viewers find meaning more in an idea or concept behind a piece, but I find meaning in its making. These days that’s perceived as a romantic notion. More on this another time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Initial thoughts on season 1, episode 1

It’s such an effort for me to turn off my thinking mind. Try, try and fail again. What ever I do ends up being for a purpose.

I don’t have a TV. That might come across as righteous, but really it’s because I’m cheap. And also I fear its effect. When I watch too much television, I feel like a failure, because I’m not performing, striving. I’m just watching, vegetating.

Vegetate is what my Marc recommended I do when he told me to Netflix something dumb. So I started Desperate Housewives, and now I must finish. At least season 1. I’ll be done by tonight, which means I’ll have watched some 24 hours of TV in 4 days.

I was sucked in when in the first minutes of the pilot episode, a prototype character shoots herself in the head. This signifies – it’s the conclusion, really - that life as you are about to see it is enough to make you want to kill yourself. I’m often unclear about what cynical actually means (distrustful of other people’s integrity or sincerity; doubtful that an endeavor is worthwhile), but this series-start is cynical by definition. Satire is something else. So is irony.

My immediate hunch is that artmaking can’t really be cynical. Because why do it if it’s not worthwhile. Or maybe cynical would be the motive: making pretty pictures for checks. Is it cynical to make art for anything other than for art's sake? I think that would just be naive. Is that thought cynical?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Yorkerland

(George Condo, The Beatnik, 1987, oil on canvas)

In Calvin Tomkins’s portrait of George Condo in this week’s New Yorker, you’ll read about the artist’s effective Cologne dealer; his few years in Paris living at a hotel and renting studios; a buddy named Basquiat; a mistake called the Pace Gallery (shoot!); confidence galore; fine taste (but not uptight!) and a good personality to boot. Ah, isn’t life in the New Yorker grand. And so well expressed, because when everything is in place, and well adjusted, you don’t need to be grandiose. You are all that you need.

In the Time’s moving review of a moving-sounding book called Twins by Allen Shawn, you’ll read that the author’s father was a “legendary” editor at the magazine. But the world created in its pages was a yoke in real life.
The Shawn home, with its emphasis (like The New Yorker’s) on discretion and decorum, magnified neuroses. […] [Their mother] even chaperoned [Allen Shawn’s] taste in music, "instituting a rule that I could only listen to one jazz record for every three classical ones."
I find myself striving to be a New Yorker living in New Yorkerland every week. It is my pleasure but also my side thorn. Last night, as I met the diamond at the end of the Condo essay, I wondered, as usual, "what exactly am I doing wrong?"