Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review: The Museum of Peripheral Art in 2009

The Museum of Peripheral Art's Annual Review for 2009 is available here. Click on the image for a larger view. >>>




Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Drawn to Steinberg: "I am a Writer who Draws"

I want to end this first year (seven months actually) of blogging for the Museum of Peripheral Art with a nice round number of posts, 50. It seems fitting since tomorrow is a round Blue Moon on New Year's Eve. Tomorrow I will post an annual report for 2009.

This morning I was searching through my half-baked essays but none were ready to post today. For some reason Saul Steinberg kept flashing through my mind during my train commute. Perhaps it was because of recent conversations about cartoons and their place in the artworld or perhaps it was because Saul is such a peripheral character:

"I am on the edge of the art world. I'm not sure that being in the center is the proper place for an artist. An artist has to have a precarious situation."

I was searching through some old notes and found these relevant entries from Steinberg at The New Yorker by Joel Smith:


Drawing's real subject, for Steinberg, was the movement of a pen point through time and over paper - a movement subsequently re-created by the complicity of a viewer's eye tracing the line and extracting from it, like a phonograph needle from a groove, the music of ideas that had set the stylus in motion. (p30)

"People who see a drawing in The New Yorker will think automatically that it's funny because it is a cartoon. If they see it in a museum, they think it is artistic; and if they find it in a fortune cookie, they think it's a prediction...I try to make them jittery by giving them situations that are out of context and contain several interpretations." (p32)

"This is not a pipe," the famous disclaimer inscribed on Rene Magritte's painting of a pipe, epitomizes modern art's prickly insistence on being seen as something more than illustration. Cartoons, on the other hand, are predicated on their transparency' without knowing the set-up, who's speaking, what the upshot is - no joke. Steinberg considered painting and collage "delights compared with the torture of finding an idea and then representing it in a less personal way, since otherwise you spoil the clarity of the idea." He had complained in 1949 that cartoon work was "depressing because once you've found the idea you must completely change your way of thinking in order to find another. It would be nice instead to do many variations on the same theme but unfortunately that's considered repetition." (pp38,39)

"The cliche is the expression of the culture of a period. Most artists are not original, but their use of cliches defines the generation. We judge a period by its cliches, by the quality of its lousy art." (p182)

Friday, December 25, 2009

ART/WORK: An Interview with Danielle Mund

Danielle Mund is an art dealer and writer. She regularly contributes to Artlog and also represents emerging artists "whose work not only keenly reflects and comments on our cultural time and place, but also conveys that perception through skilled execution."

Danielle wrote the recent posting ART/WORK: A Book Review, which takes a close look at ART/WORK: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. In keeping with my interests for a deeper contemplation of art and media, I have asked Danielle (pictured below) for this email interview to further comment on the setting for the book.


Drew:
Well I certainly had some nerve asking you to rethink/repurpose your review of ART/WORK without having read either your review or the book. Thank you for putting me in my place (fortunately I lost your scolding reply with my recently hacked/lost email account).

Danielle:
You’re welcome.

Drew:
I just finished reading ART/WORK and I have read your review a half a dozen times: an excellent review of a fascinating book. Both give new meaning to the word "thorough". I felt like I just took a whole course at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). It's a very committed book for artists serious about their careers, which can be confirmed by reading it front to back. I read it, first and foremost, as an artist starting to get back into showing work in spaces. But I also looked at it in context with my current reading of David Sweetman's Paul Gauguin: A Life and it seems that what we consider as the bustle and workings of today's art world are not a far cry from Gauguin's environment. Your background is in art history. When you read ART/WORK were you ever thinking about the careers of artists in the past or is it purely a book of contemporary advice for you? What did you take away from it?

Danielle:
First of all, congratulations on quite literally getting back to the drawing board; it is certainly a great—and quite necessary—step for an artist. Second, and to answer your main question, no, I was not thinking of any specific careers of artists in the past while reading ART/WORK. This is not to say that I didn’t think about the ways in which the advice contained in this book might differ from what it would have been had it been written 50 or 100 years ago; it is a book about how to enter the art market, which is no doubt very different today than it was even a decade ago. But it’s essentially a how-to book, not an historical manual, and so the information contained between its covers is necessarily meant for the contemporary artist. It emphasized the fact that “making it,” or being successful, in the art world means being a professional and selling your work and developing relationships with galleries and/or clients. Being an artist is not (just) about being lucky.

Drew:
One of the statistics I found fascinating was that there are more than 200,000 fine artists in the United States with an additional 8,000 graduating from art programs each year. This is measured against roughly 1,000 galleries in New York. These numbers are boiled down to make a point about representation and the market place, but what do these figures mean to you regarding the pursuits of the artists you know and in general, about our culture?

Danielle:
It is incredibly difficult to “make it” as an artist unless you’re living off a well-endowed trust fund or an exceptionally understanding spouse. That said, people do it. The artists I know are level-headed and know that in order to have any chance at being successful—which I would define as being able to live comfortably off your art-making—the most important thing you can do is to keep doing it. If you’re wishy-washy about making art your career, people won’t take you seriously, collectors won’t buy your work (because, let’s face it, many “collectors” are in fact investors and buy not only for love), and you won’t bring in any income. It’s a vicious cycle. Yes, it’s hard to get those first few collectors. It’s hard to expand your network. (This is where gallery representation helps a great deal.) As an artist, you’re essentially an entrepreneur, as the book rightly starts out by saying. But, as it is for any other small business owner, sticking to your product, being serious about your work, and working hard at it do pay off. Our country is built on small business owners, and so these are the qualities our culture rewards.

Drew:
What do you think the shelf-life is for ART/WORK? In your review you wrote "Only ten years ago, Heather noted, it was unthinkable for a gallery to sell works online. Now it’s absolutely necessary for galleries—and artists!—to have websites, and selling art online is becoming increasingly common." Do you think this book, due to the changing art world, is going to be irrelevant in five to ten years or is it simply a matter of revising the differences and a diligence of the co-authors to maintain it?

Danielle:
I think this book will be relevant for awhile. Whether that’s two years or 20 I don’t know, but it hardly matters. (As a paperback selling at less than $12 on Amazon, it’s not exactly meant to be a life-long investment!) I asked a similar question in my interview with Jonathan and Heather, and they mentioned there is always room for a second—and third, fourth, and fifth—edition, a point to which you also allude. Sure, specific laws will change, certain business practices will become obsolete and perhaps the Internet will play an even larger role in the art market. Pretty much all advice books become antiquated at some point. Still, there is advice in here that is basic and everlasting: do your work, show it as much and as well as you can, and apply for relevant grants and prizes, etc. It really works the same way with any profession, in that you want to make yourself known and liked; it’s just that this book is tailored to the artist.

Drew:
When I bumped into you, literally seconds before you met with Heather and Jonathan, I did a double-take because I initially thought you had a Miranda July book. So first I must apologize formally for being nosey and inquiring about it. I want to say something about the book itself. You mention its efficient layout and the drawings and quotes, which keep it "fun". If you step back and examine it further you see both an arresting, shock-orange cover and pulpy-newsprint text pages. That combination reads as “sell quickly and profit”. Sometimes I even felt like the newsprint was more about marketing than cutting costs, to give it a very immediate feel. In the introductory chapter, “The Big Picture,” they comment on the cover: "And it has a slash in the title, so it will look cool on your shelf."

Can you comment a bit on this book as a book? You used term "textbook" at one point in your review and mention that Heather and Jonathan secured teaching positions at SVA. I can see this even turned into a documentary; certainly the quotes would be interesting filmed. Do you think, in terms of empowering and guiding artists, that this material works best in book form, as a kind of textbook or a field guide?

Danielle:
I like your visual analysis of the book itself, and I agree with your reading of it. If that’s what the authors were going for (“sell quickly and profit”), it only makes sense, as it reflects a large portion of the art market itself; obviously, many artists over the past half century have created artwork about money, commercialism, and the like, from the Pop artists to Damien Hirst. Yes, I think it is best kept in book form. Turning it into a documentary film would give it a linearity and narrative that it isn’t necessarily meant to have. It is a book precisely because its reader can flip to what he or she wants to know, like a reference manual. Want to know about lawyers? Check pages X-Y. Gallery representation? Page Z. It’s not didactic in the same way a film might be. That’s why it’s not a film, it’s a book.

Drew:
What was your thesis on at the Courtauld Institute of Art? Does ART/WORK spark a personal interest in writing a book? If so, what would it be on?

Danielle:
My thesis (or “dissertation,” as they call an MA-level thesis in Britain) was about the nationalization of memory through art, specifically relating to September 11th. Sure, I’d love to write a book some day—wouldn’t we all? Though it would probably not be what I wrote my thesis on. No, it would be The Great American Novel. Maybe I’ll write a vampire story where only artists are vampires and there’s a young girl who wants to be an artist but she can’t because she’d have to get her neck sucked first, but that’s bad, because being an artist is very taxing and she’s too pure. What do you think? It would certainly be more of a money-maker than the nationalization of memory regarding 9/11. I’d have to write it in the next minute and a half, though, before the whole vampire theme falls from everyone’s good graces.

Drew:
My first art form, and the one I am still most comfortable with, is drawing. I am, before anything else, a cartoonist. ART/WORK is interesting for me because of how the cartoons are used. Kammy Roulner provided the "illustrations". You call them "droll little cartoons". In one, a bespectacled and turtlenecked woman says to a phased, balding man "If you took the time to read my blog you'd know that my work is about multi-ethnic cultures and not about global diversity."

The cartoons are used for levity. They are a device, like the numerous quotes. They are great and they add to the book, but they also feel like token appearances, the way a flamboyant gay guy might be thrown into a TV or movie scene for laughs...thus perpetuating a stereotype. I have spent a lot of my artistic life trying elevate cartoons to a highly conceptual art form. Where do you think they fit into the art world?

Danielle:
I’m assuming you mean that the content of cartoons reinforces existing cultural stereotypes, rather than that cartoons as a genre have been stereotyped as something that should be funny. Either way, I don’t really understand this question. “Cartoons” are meant to be humorous drawings, often satirical, and thus ironically reinforce stereotypes by definition. That is the purpose of these drawings in the book. “Illustrations” may or may not be humorous, satirical, or stereotypical, so if you’d like a “highly conceptual art form” forget about the word “cartoon”. I recommend you see the Tim Burton exhibit currently on show at MoMA. His work is exceptional, but it isn’t “high art.” When the subject matter is popular, it isn’t going to be high art, ever. How would you make a cartoon conceptual? Cartoons already presuppose a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the viewer, very often dealing with contemporary cultural issues (politics and leadership, celebrities, popular entertainment) and that is precisely why they are effective; they present material in a way that challenges but also rewards the reader. Strip them of their comedy, and they become tedious—well-executed illustrations, perhaps, but not cartoons. Perhaps I simply need to see an example of what you mean.

Drew:
What I really like about ART/WORK is that it's not a success-story book that makes you jealous, or worse—feeling incompetent and disadvantaged. The message seems to be: be happy where you are at this point, appreciate what you have, and if you want more of this or that get your act together, take what you want from this sound advice and keep doing what you do best. In that sense it's not a delusional self-help book and it's not na├»ve and optimistic. It's like hearing interviewers talking about a candidate's responses before you go in to sit with them. You point out that neither Heather nor Jonathan are artists. Have you gotten any feedback from artists who have read this book or to whom you may have recommended it?

Danielle:
I haven’t gotten any feedback from artists (other than yourself)—sorry I can’t comment on this one! All I can say about this is that there are other books on the bookshelves regarding how to be a professional artist, but that they are written by artists who simply give their experiences, and so they end up being one-sided views of what to do and are therefore not really all that helpful. I think I hint at this in the review.

Drew:
Towards the end (page 237) there is a side bar comment "It's Just An Analogy, People!" which reads "Every gallerist we interviewed made some kind of analogy to courtship and marriage when describing what it's like to bring a new artist into their program..." There are no shortages of these comments throughout ART/WORK: everything from breaking someone's heart to one night stands to the commitment of marriage. Can you shed some light on this phenomenon? It seems more than just an analogy. Is there something to the emotional relationship of an artist and his or her work and a kind of rearing that the gallerist shares? Or are we dealing with a lot of people who put their careers over relationships and so the professional relationship substitutes as something more intimate, the same way people without children speak about their cats and dogs as kids? Why the constant comparisons to romantic relationships? Do you think artists and gallerists reverse the analogy and project the artist-gallerist relationship on friendships and their partners?

Danielle:
The marriage analogy emphasizes the artist-gallery relationship as one that is supportive, legally verifiable, and takes work over the years. More than simply a business relationship, artists and gallerists “date” around in order to find a good fit before “settling down” to work with each other over the long-term. Sure, there’s an emotional investment, but it’s probably not all that different from finding a business partner. Certainly, the marriage analogy is more memorable, perhaps catchier, than simply saying it’s a professional, business relationship. I don’t think it’s an analogy to be extrapolated to some general statement about how we’re all workaholics, and that we’re “married” to our work (though that very well may be true!).

Drew:
Thank you Danielle for your time. What's on your plate for 2010?

Danielle:
Thanks for putting so much time and effort into this, Drew—it’s been a great experience and I truly look forward to our next encounter! As for me, 2010 promises to be a big year: I’m planning a big show to be exhibited some time in the next few months or perhaps next Fall on the LES, and in the meantime continuing to expand the number of talented artists I represent. (Presently, I’m taking submissions from artists and conducting studio visits, so if you are an artist who is looking for representation or would like a chance to be part of this show, please do contact me through my website, http://www.daniellemund.com/) I’m also continuing to write for Artlog and freelance PR services to existing galleries, so it’s all work, work, work. It’s almost like I’m married to it! It’s going to be a fun year. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ART/WORK: Shipping News


While the pending conversation/interview about ART/WORK with Danielle Mund is percolating (see previous posting for her review), I would like to chime in on one of the topics in Bhandari and Melber's helpful book for artists, while we are on the topic.

There is much thought given to shipping art in ART/WORK: how to pack paintings and sculpture and what is the best way to ship things. There are even diagrams of how to build collars for paintings as well as charts comparing UPS and FedEx with art shippers (and hand delivering your work in a taxi). A cartoon by Kammy Roulner illustrates the section: Two men are standing around a sculpture, which consists of a living cat atop a tire (think Rauschenberg's "Monogram"), which is resting on two slats of wood. A hovering smiley face, helium filled balloon is tied to the cat's middle section. One of the men says to the other "Don't forget to pack some cat food when you ship this."

It would be neglectful of me to not mention a recent international shipping experience I had. This summer I was part of a show in the Czech Republic. I needed to ship over my life-size homeless self portrait sculpture (pictured below). I boxed him up into a coffin size container I made from cardboard and dragged him down to the local post office. The employees there said it was too large to ship so they provided me with the dimensions it needed to be. I cut the box down to about a quarter of the original size, repackaged and crunched "me" with all of my bedding and clothes down into something the size of a college room refrigerator.

When I brought it to the scale, I found out that the USPS no longer ships "surface" internationally (they do not profit from it) and that it would cost about $100 to ship. I went up to the UPS store a couple blocks away to see if they could ship it for less. They quoted me $800 and said FedEx would be about $1,200. So I brought it back to the post office and spent just under $100 to ship 20.5 lbs, which works out to roughly $4.80/lb. I also sent a box of books at the same rate for just over $80.

Everything was fine with the delivery, though the boxes arrived much earlier than I had anticipated...I was planning on the surface delivery to arrive a couple weeks, not a couple months ahead of time. The one problem was that I basically had to remake the sculpture from the compressed materials (pictured left, unboxed outside the gallery's front door and completed in the courtyard).

The money was not that big of a deal but it was an extra cost I could have avoided had I done some more research. When I returned to the United States my wife needed to send some gifts to her sister in Krakow so we went to a Polish agency near our home in New Jersey. It is the type of place you can get money wired, documents translated, airplane tickets...even a nanny. The agency ships anything, any size, to Poland for under 50 cents/lb and to neighboring countries for a multiple of that. My $180 of shipping could have cost me under $17 to Poland (where I would have needed to pick up the packages) and under $50 to the front door of the gallery in the Czech Republic. The price is so cheap because these agencies send over whole containers of items, which does take a few weeks.

Although there is a whole new set of risks with such an approach, this might be the perfect way for you to ship oversized and heavy objects. It would be wise to look into the diaspora agencies of roughly where you are going to send your work. They are everywhere in the major metropolitan areas.

It is very important to have everything set up for the end of a show and what you plan to do with your work, especially if you are not going to be around. In my case, when the show ended I was back in the United States but the only materials I used were my clothes, some blankets and chicken wire. The curator suggested we strip the form of the clothes and send them up to Prague where he would give them to homeless men. I loved the idea because it gave a whole other level to the work and would help someone out. I also suggested giving all the chicken wire to one of the local villagers for his garden. That was the plan but last I heard it was still sitting at the gallery and was probably simply tossed out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ART/WORK: A Book Review

by Danielle Mund

There’s no doubt in my mind that the art world is a treacherous place. On the one hand, it’s a cranky old establishment with a severe hierarchy of reputations and tastes; on the other, it’s a fickle young thing that claims no hard-and-fast rules.

But although the art world could not exist without the artist, it is somehow the artist who often seems most lost in this tangled-up web. As an artist, you have beans to your name until you’re on your deathbed, other people’s crap gets hooked up at David Zwirner while you can’t get a lazy eye to look at your masterpieces, and there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything you have to do. Then, of course, there’s the reputational hazard.

Luckily, ART/WORK: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career, a new book by power duo Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber, provides a ton of valuable information for the artist who, for lack of a better expression, hasn’t yet “made it” in his or her career. Neither Heather nor Jonathan are artists themselves—but that’s precisely what makes their advice both valuable and unique. Heather is a director and curator at Mixed Greens Gallery in Chelsea, and Jonathan has practiced art law at a prominent New York law firm and has also represented artists on a pro bono basis for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Plus, they’ve each secured teaching positions at SVA next term on account of the book. It’s a pretty safe bet they know what they’re talking about.

I got my hands on a copy and honestly couldn’t put it down. It’s not only easy reading but is laid out extremely efficiently and takes a very well rounded approach to providing advice for artists and their careers. One of the most striking aspects of the book—and importantly, an aspect that separates it from what’s already on the market—is that it isn’t a one-sided how-to manual. Whereas most other books are “inspirational” and try to “get the artist in the studio,” in ART/WORK, the authors assume as much about their readers and instead aim to explain the practicalities beyond simply creating the work. They interviewed dozens of people in the art world, from artists and curators to gallerist-dealers and arts lawyers, in order to get a diversity of opinions on how to be successful. In my own interview with Heather and Jonathan, Heather admitted they were actually surprised by how little conflict of opinion there was on how to do things successfully in the art world. Turns out being an artist isn’t the free-for-all you may have thought it was when you applied to art school—at least, if you’re serious about making it a viable career. There really are rights and wrongs (or betters and worses).

Th
roughout, ART/WORK assumes its reader is a serious and practical artist who already devotes the necessary time to doing his or her work; obviously, that’s the single most important thing an artist can do for his or her own career. Given that, Heather and Jonathan agree that the next most important things for an artist to do are be organized (keep written track of your inventory and images), do his/her research (figure out where you fit in within the art world), and do more research (apply for grants, residencies, etc.). Be focused with your applications, though: one of the biggest mistakes artists make is applying indiscriminately, which will only get you a higher rejection rate and takes you away from working on your art. If you do your research first and know where you stand, you’ll have a higher chance of succeeding not only in getting grants and residencies, but also in securing gallery representation and the right kinds of clients.

Heather noted that Jonathan is “great at putting legal documents into very easily understood sentences and paragraphs that anyone can use.” I very much agree. He even includes sample agreements (more wretchedly known as contracts) in relevant chapters, which can be tweaked by readers for their own purposes, and used for artist-gallery relationships as well as direct artist-client relationships. Jonathan smartly remarked in our interview that “just the process itself of writing stuff down helps you think through what the issues are; it brings out issues you didn’t necessarily know were there, because it’s only when you start to write something out that you realize ‘Oh, I’ve been assuming this all along, maybe the person I’m doing this arrangement with is assuming something else.’ So the exercise [of writing an agreement] in and of itself is worthwhile for that alone. And then, the idea is to be as clear as possible, and to have fewer things to argue about later.” While his sample contracts are helpful, they don’t replace having a lawyer to make sure everything with your legal document is kosher. If nothing else, have your friend’s-cousin’s-sister-in-law—who’s also a lawyer—look at it.

ART/WORK’s strongest underlying point is that you, the artist, are and should be in full control of your career, and should think of yourself as an entrepreneur—even if you have gallery representation. Will the artist-as-entrepreneur ever take over the need for gallery representation, I wondered? Not likely, but things have certainly changed over the past decade or so to make an artist more accessible to a wider audience. Interestingly, the Internet has certainly played a large part in opening up the once very closed art world network. Only ten years ago, Heather noted, it was unthinkable for a gallery to sell works online. Now it’s absolutely necessary for galleries—and artists!—to have websites, and selling art online is becoming increasingly common. “As a gallerist,” says Heather, “while looking for new artists—for both representation and group exhibitions—it’s really frustrating when an artist doesn’t have a website. It’s difficult to actually figure out if I want to do a studio visit with them, or if I can put them in a show. So I think an artist is doing him or herself a huge disservice by not having a website. It’s just making it that much harder for someone to find you or contemplate your work for different opportunities.” (Might I suggest Arlosites.com?)

Chapters on how to stay organized, submit your materials productively, get business cards and a website, show your work, work on consignment, pack your art, deal with loans, commissions, galleries, and clients, and more are all packed into this 281-page reader. It keeps its textbook format fun with droll little cartoons and lots of quotes. If you have any questions at all about your career as an artist, whether still in school or mid-career, invest in a copy or two of ART/WORK. I swear, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Check out ART/WORK: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career on Amazon.com.

This review was previously posted by Danielle on Artlog. I bumped into Danielle about 30 seconds before her interview with Bhandari and Melber. With my interests already piqued and then inspired by Danielle's comments, I went out and got my own copy of ART/WORK (a staff pick at the Strand, $13.56) and am thoroughly enjoying it. When I am finished, I will interview/have a conversation with Danielle to discuss what this book means in a larger context for artists and art today. This will be the next posting here...coming soon...

Danielle Mund holds a BA in Art History from Wellesley College and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialized in Post-War and Contemporary Art. >>> view her website

A Different Tune

by Drew MartinInteresting things happen when you take objects apart. For example, you see how they are engineered and constructed. But when components are separated, never to be in union again, the paths they take may be entirely divergent: not unlike old schoolmates, detached siblings and other untangled relationships that were once bound and contained.

I had a upright piano at home a few years ago, which I got for free on the condition that I move it out of the previous owner's house...quite a feat for three not particularly strong men. Though I played a little on the ill-tuned thing I started not enjoying it because the first thing people did when they came over was bang on it. The idea of moving it again was too daunting so I decided to transform it. I wanted to make it silent and sculptural...to cut it down to one gem. For days I hacked at it and cut it up with a circular saw, using wood and metal cutting blades. I even caught it on fire by accident when sparks from the harp lit the sounding board. All that is left now is part of the harp, which I painted black and hung on the wall..all 400+ lbs of it. It is a beautiful piece for me because it has a very playful feel to it, like a child's plastic stencil and yet it is massive and quite dangerous.

What also came out of the piano was a completely different piece. I threaded and hung all the keys from a tree in the backyard but this sculpture quickly disintegrated. The "ivory" white veneer of the keys curled and the wood rotted. The pleasant surprise of the work was that the wind made the keys sway and when they did you imagined/even heard music in your head. M
ost interestingly, the music you heard changed accordingly to the weather: how cold or how sunny it was outside as well as what time of day it was. More often than not I heard Chopin.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not in the UK - Don't Need $2,500

My personal email account has been compromised and apparently, according to an email from "me" earlier, I am in down and out in the UK and begging for money via Yahoo!. Here is a picture taken of me earlier today on the streets of NYC with a whopping $20 in my pocket, which will last me a week.

My apologies to anyone reading this who received annoying emails from my old account. I am emailing from a new address now. Thank you to everyone who called in to check up on me.

Here is the content of the hacker email...the funny thing is, other than the bad grammar which was the biggest tip-off, the circumstances are up my alley:

Am in a hurry writing you this note, Just wanted to seek your help on something very important, you are the only person i could reach at this point, and i hope you come to my aid. Because something very terrible is happening to me now, i need a favor from you now,I had a trip here in United Kingdom on a business.Unfortunately for me all my money got stolen on my way to the hotel where i lodged along with my bag were my passport was ,And since then i have been without any money i am even owing the hotel here.So i have limited access to emails for now, please i need you to lend me about $2500 so i can make arrangements and return back please,i have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will return the money back to you as soon as i get home, I am so confused right now.I will be waiting to hear from you.
Regards
Andrew Martin


I responded from another account and the scammer gave this forwarding address for where the money should be sent:

18 Manor Road
Chigwell City
Essex County
England
United Kingdom

Here it is on Google Earth. I have designated it as the first Museum of Peripheral Art IMPOSTER site:

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You...

To writers, singers, thespians, artists and even politicians and athletes I ask "Who is your audience?" There are probably two answers to this. For the first you might cobble together a fan base, financial or emotional supporters and perhaps a general age group/demographic plus some friends and family. But the response closer to your heart, one you may not even acknowledge, is probably an audience of one, an absent parent, a dead friend, a busy mentor, a god, a demon, a potential lover, an invisible soul mate. The more impossible, the better...meaning...the more intense the pursuit, the more constant the calling. In a mediated era in which people entertain social sites with thousands of friends these two kinds of audiences may seem quite polar, but that's the point/gap worth contemplating. What better reactionary way for a scorned lover to show resilience than to boast an astronomical number of friends, post fun-in-the-sun pictures of a recent trip to Aruba and publicize a new love once all other access to someone has terminated. The difference now is that the exhibitionist can "use" more than just a friend or two to make his or her point. He or she can, in fact use a thousand people or more in the needy throws of emotional turbulence.

That being said, the audience of one is not so easy to pinpoint. There may be layers of humans involved (the Carly Simon composite), with only one, original core, whose most recent reincarnation may be the most highly exposed. All of this is pretty basic psychology and a bit too sophomoric to follow through with...but...I think what is interesting is the layering in the broad-cast message. The veneer may be "I'm doing great without you" but the wake behind that may be wide and long. Perhaps it's a frank, continuing dialogue, advice, a friendship or another kind of relationship that should have been salvaged through all else. These are personal unsolved mysteries.

The relationship to this most intimate audience is best explored by the Harvard University professor and poetry/literary critic, Helen Vendler in three hours of online lectures recorded at Princeton from April 14-16 2004 and titled Speaking to Invisible Listeners: George Herbert and God: Intimacy with the Better Self; Walt Whitman and the Reader in Futurity: Intimacy with the Longed-for Camerado; John Ashbery and the Artist of the Past: Intimacy with a Vanished Twin.

To listen, click on the link below and search "invisible"

http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/lectures

Vendler's discussion of the lyric voice annihilating distances with utopian mergings removes us from the lone, desperate acts and helps us understand what it means to be an intimate friend, answering with improvements...answering "a speaker's questions using his very own syllables."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Into Sight, Out of Mind: The Five Minute Museum

The hackneyed phrase Out of Sight, Out of Mind is presumptuous. Perhaps this can be said of things without much emotional investment but the truth is that most longings and yearnings are a matter of Out of Sight, Into Mind, which may in fact lead to a kind of obsession and mental loops that are continuously played, which are hard to escape. This is the force behind Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in which a parted couple tries to erase each other in their memories through a medical procedure. If the reality is Out of Sight, Into Mind, then might the opposite have a reverse effect? What would Into Sight, Out of Mind entail? The proposition would be to create a Five Minute Museum with the following ten instructions:

1. Gather gnawing keepsakes.
2. Find a bare, private space.
3. Pin up the tangibles: photos, letters, drawings, etc.
4. Step back and survey the collection for five minutes.
5. Seal your emotions into these objects.
6. Remember the bad times.
7. Acknowledge the good outcomes.
8. Think of what else you would rather be doing and how boring this all is.
9. Take down the display.
10. Part with it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Crucial Difference: An Interview with Anne Hars

Anne Hars is a Los Angeles based artist who comments on spaces through her paintings, drawings, photography and, more recently, urban gardens. She received her MFA in 2004 from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, has exhibited widely in California and has participated in residences around the country including the Hammer Museum, Cooper Union and the Vermont Studio Center. Anne has recently started a gallery in Los Angeles called The Thinkery.

Drew:
We met in Prague in the early 1990s. I remember visiting your studio in the former Zensky Dum (House for Women). I was captivated by the space. Your drawings remind me of it: an intersection of planes at uncommon angles. This is a big theme for you isn't? Defining space in drawings or improving space with your urban garden projects.

Anne:
Before the garden series I was most excited about creating spaces in which to enter, and about that phenomenological process of entering into a work. I started with drawings that were very,
very small and had to be looked at with a magnifying glass. It was such a simple way to make something otherworldly. In a lot of sci fi blackness isn’t infinity, endless whiteness is. Blackness is the universe, a place with destinations, stars and planets. Whiteness is without destination, its fog, chance and aloneness. When one creates worlds on paper one can create utopias - as long as they are just for one. Utopias for One. It’s the only way utopias can work, really. I mean, if you create a utopia, you can still have guests over to visit your utopia, they just can’t overstay their welcome. For years I have heard people call utopianismutopic”. Is that a real word? It sounds so medical, so clinical, like an unwanted growth. Or like ectopic, which means out of place and refers to a fertilized egg growing on the wrong side of a uterus. Which seems like a common idea of what a utopia is; an out of place fertile growth that nonetheless cannot sustain. Now I’ve just talked my way into really liking the word utopic.

Drew:
Do you think living in Prague influenced this interest in spaces? In Prague every inch of the center is considered and detailed and full of human touch. Moving back to the US, with its abandoned lots, concrete and asphalt splatterings is hard to swallow. Or did you take away a different experience from Prague: the air pollution, hard winters and communist blunders?

Anne:
I had been living alone in the desert of Arizona for a year before going to Prague. I was an apprentice to a figurative sculptor who was very old and I slept in a makeshift foundry. I was like an urchin. I slept under so many covers in the winter that my arms went numb at night from the weight and I would wake and have to flail them off me (I slept with them folded over me for extra heat). Mice would run through the layers of blankets. I had to forage for firewood by a creek. I don’t think most American girls were living like that, but what did I know. Arizona was escape from the cold wet marshes of New England with its puritanical smallness. It was infinite space and I was safe from the claustrophobia of family history. I could have spent all my time marveling at distance but the old sculptor insisted I draw nudes six hours a day, work in the foundry for two banging away at figurative bronzes and only then could I go stare at infinity for a few hours as long as I had a sketch book and produced drawings. Maybe that’s why I don’t draw people.

Then it was time for my European tour (I had only read old books in which this is done) so I went, and I loved it because I couldn’t understand anyone! Bliss! The immense silence! Why would anyone actually learn another language when not learning was so fantastic? I loved sitting in the midst of so much humanity and not understanding words. Speech was the musical accompaniment to the architecture: Europe for an American is like shrinking oneself down and running around in the endless flourishes of a Baroque frame.

When I got back to America I entered a convenience store and almost fainted in front of a wall of candy wrappers. Not infinite space. A wall of visual white noise.

So the flourish is immensely important idea for me. Prague is architectural glossolalia, the flourishes took over and encrusted the city. The servant usurped its master. Who needs the art when you have a frame of ever expanding intricacies?

Drew:
Your flying fans and vector mountain drawings are interesting because the mountains are stand-alone objects so the fans that are broken and fragmented, laying waste on the mountains, seem more like victims of a unfair obstacle than their own misdirection. Are these images just about those simple surfaces or do they have a deeper meaning and metaphors of the fragility of life or the unfortunate chance of some relationships?

Anne:
America is all about walls of like things. Things always are standing in for the things they resemble. When I came to Los Angeles to go to grad school I got a small apartment in Pasadena. So many apartments have low ceilings here but they all have ceiling fans. To me, many interiors feel threatening. When I was a kid I lived in a huge dilapidated Victorian mansion with no central heating and lots of raccoons. My parents were basically caretakers - a wildly misused word in their case. There were chairs that had elaborately carved caryatids of men arching their backs violently backwards to support the armrests. I was so horrified by the plight of these little men and the cruelty of the chair for their imprisonment. What an awful thing! Most of the furniture terrified me. A soft red velvet chair would have spiky bits of horsehair jutting through or a brass tack worked loose would jab and tear. It all seemed to threaten instead of comfort. But I think, like a lot of kids who grow up in broken homes (divorce, insanity, abuse, what have you), there is a certain amount of transference that takes place. Memory isn’t a recording of events, it’s a compilation of the smallest fragments of clues to prod a fiction of sorts that make sense of all the emotions left stewing.

Remember the beginning of Apocalypse Now? The guy is staring up at a ceiling fan and it brings back a rush of memories, flashbacks. So ceiling fans became the icon for flashbacks to war. And then, because I work in architecture, I love icons for things in 3-d programs, the clunkier the rendering the better. Icons are like the fragments of memory we use to restructure a memory, so my stand-in (a simply rendered icon from a 3-d architecture program) became the Meta stand-in for the fragment of memory that goads memory.

Drew:
Though your drawings make use of crisp vector lines, the photos on your site are quite the opposite, vague and mysterious. Are those a way for you to comment on and push a medium which is typically too predictable and defined?

Anne:
I did some huge pieces on muslin, 9' square, of interiors that were really a jumble of icons of interior and exterior stuff. They were really white and washed out. I hung them really low so you could feel like you could just step through into them. I called them Heaven at Eye-level. There are a lot of songs about heaven that depict it as a giant house that has everything you could ever want for. I made the work and I was listening to interviews with and about Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who researched near death experiences and white light experiences. A majority of the descriptions of white light experiences involve a misty bright white space in which the “traveler” meets with family and friends.

But there is a lighter side to my work. I mean, its pretty absurd. I did a series of drawings in which lawn mowers and bidets interact. One can’t survive without absurdity. It's super important. I like work that is both funny and serious depending on the viewers mood. Sean Landers once told me his favorite work was both stupid and clever. I think I generally agree with that, except I’d use the terms poignant and absurd.

Drew:
Is your involvement with greening urban spaces simply a human reaction or do you think it is a particular calling for you as a visual person who can identify and correct blights?

Anne:
All my projects are artworks. I am working as an artist and I reside in a community and I do what I want. Material is all around.

I think the artist I aspire to be is one unhindered by current or past definitions of art and what form it should take. I do what I love and what works. I see a very strong coherence in my practice that is not, perhaps evident by what things look like. I do, however, think its time to step up to the plate and take responsibility for every aspect of artistic production especially in choices concerning materials. I’m really not interested in art comprised of resin poured over stuff, for instance. The first artist we showed at The Thinkery, though, showed work of that exact description but with a crucial difference. She had worked for a local art celebrity who used tons of resin and toxic materials. She rescued the detritus - the bits of hardened clumps which would have gone on to kill sea turtles and poison landfills - and incorporated them into shrines, devotional pieces and powerful vignettes about connection and isolation. They were great because the actual material could be questioned and then one could move on into the complexities and layers of meaning. It wasn’t because she wanted the look of resin poured over wood, it was there, it was someone else’s oblivion that she took up and transformed.

That’s a crucial difference.

Drew:
Thank you for your time. Are there any new projects on the horizon?

Anne:
I’ll continue to cultivate my garden.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Photograghy 2009, Leslie Hewitt 2010: An Interview

Leslie Hewitt is a photographer and sculptor currently represented at the Museum of Modern Art's New Photography 2009 exhibition (through January 11, 2010). A short video interview with Leslie by Eva Respini (Associate Curator, Department of Photography, MoMA) is available on MoMA's website. The following posting is my own interview with Leslie, which I asked her for in order to answer some questions I had about her work. Once we got started, I immediately abandoned the notes and questions I had prepared and simply let the dialogue proceed frankly.

Leslie Hewitt is perhaps one of the most elegant, educated and thought-full artists working today. She is mature, articulate and has time on her side which is evident in her youthful curiosity, patience and control of the temporal elements in her work. Leslie received her BFA from Cooper Union in 2000 and her MFA from Yale University in 2004. I am very pleased to present here a phone conversation we had yesterday while she was driving back to Harvard University where she is currently a Radcliffe Fellow. This text was slightly edited during transcription in order to clean up the stray habits of discussion and make it more readable. What is missing, however, is the sound of her smart, clear voice and her candid laughter.

Drew:
I went to MoMA Friday night and saw your work there. Congratulations on the exhibition.

Leslie:
Thank you.

Drew:
What was the selection like? Were you part of the whole process or did they just announce that you were going to be in it?

Leslie:
My experience thus far is that the curator contacts you and there is a certain level of engagement that has to happen. I do not think I have ever been in a show when that was not the case. I met Eva Respini about four years ago and she saw my work at the Studio Museum exhibition Frequency. And then we met and had several studio visits and conversations. I don’t think I was always privy to her interests in curating a show eventually with me included. But we did have a series of conversations around the work that I was doing. And then in January we had another studio visit and she let me know she was working towards the next New Photography exhibition, which they always do and is always the last space after you go through the collection with some of the more historic works...and then you end with contemporary propositions. So she was looking at artists and I was one of them.

Drew:
So are those pieces that are there in the show part of the collection now?

Leslie:
There is only one that is part of the collection.

Drew:
Is that the “Ebony” one? (Riffs on Real Time)

Leslie:
Yes.

Drew:
OK, because there was a triptych on the left and then a diptych to the left of that. Is that right?

Leslie:
Yes.

Drew:
So who chose the other work? Was that something you got to choose or did they look at your work and say “I want this piece”?

Leslie:
All of the photographers in the show also work in other mediums so we went through a phase where she was also interested in some other works but then towards the midpoint she realized the show would be most effective with two dimensional works. So it was a give-and-take. Initially I did not want the Riffs on Real Time series but she really fought for that, to have that present. And I guess I am only saying that because that is an older one. So that was the compromise.

Drew:
Did you know the other photographers/artists in the show prior?

Leslie:
I know Walead Beshty pretty well. Not personally but I have had the longest awareness of his practice than of anyone else in the show. Sara VanDerBeek is another artist who I knew prior to the exhibition at MoMA. But Walead’s work I felt like I followed a bit more.

Drew:
I guess what I want to ask about is that the name of the exhibition at MoMA is New Photography 2009 and yet I feel like a lot of your influences come from the 60’s, such as Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs or even earlier artists such as Magritte and Duchamp...or David Hockney, who is later. What are the influences? I am referring to your set-ups that remind me specifically of One and Three Chairs by Kosuth.
Leslie:
Well I would definitely say I am aware of it but for me a lot of my references come from outside my art practice. A lot of my references or inspirations come from French New Wave Cinema. I also love Third Cinema. The risks they were taking in narrative is important for me on the subjective position. Many of the films...like Godard’s early films...were, in that era, fixated on the importance of the personal narrative. The subtext is always political. It’s on the periphery. The center is always this personal aspect. And I would say the reality of Third Cinema gives me the courage to take certain risks. That is where my initial interest comes from in terms of a visual narrative. It is more visually playful and imaginative. This lineage promotes freedom to project a personal narrative and give it a frame that is political or a frame that is social. A frame that is socially and politically aware.

Drew:
And also your narrative is both the context as well as the temporal elements in your triptych. When I went to see your work at MoMA I was much more engaged than I thought I would be. I watched the interview online first with you and Eva and you were talking about the triptych being upside down. That almost seems like an art joke. But when I went there, I got to see what you were trying to do. There was something with the quality of the plants that looked quite different because there was a different sense of gravity. Was there any tongue and cheek in that aspect?

Leslie:
No. One could say that is embedded in photography. There is an aspect of photography that does connect to that effect. There is no mystery that both of those effects come along at the same time. Thinking about knowledge and awareness of optics and how our eye works and how vision works and how photography plays into that. It’s definitely not something that I have to try hard to engage with. But for me I was really thinking more in terms of gravity…thinking about perception and making it a physical experience…making the experience a visual experience but something that is a process of working through even in one photograph and I think I do that in different ways like in Riffs on Real Time it's through all of these layers. So in essence you are looking at a flat surface, so there is no trick of the eye, really, by allowing the frame or the edge of the photograph to always be visible in the second photograph. To me that is another dismantling of the illusion of photography. I feel like a lot of my work is a bit dry in that way...that it reveals the mechanisms that are at play. So, yes it's turned 180 degrees but you also have a sense that there is a human hand in it. There is this dialogue that I am hoping, at least visually, that happens between me-the composer of the still life...or the narrative...and the viewer to put together, take apart and then put back together. For me it's more about slowing down the visual process than it is about creating an illusion. I kind of reveal how it's being done.

Drew:
I think the reason it did work for me when I saw it present was that you are taking pictures of objects and by having it upside down you are almost saying that the end product is not the photograph that MoMA or anybody wanted in the New Photography 2009 show because it's still an object and you can turn it right side up if you wanted to....it's still a physical object you can play with. When I first saw your work I thought I was too distracted by the concept-the conceptual delivery and not understanding, as you say, the political/social message in it. How do you balance the message and the delivery so it doesn't just come across as minimalist and so you don't lose somebody either way?

Leslie:
I don't ever think it could be void of it. Not to go overboard with Third Cinema...because for me Third Cinema really represented that...and I think French New Wave did too, because you need both, right? If you are trying to tell a story a certain way that's evocative of something, a previous form may not be suitable for it. So in a way you do have to engage in aesthetics. You have to engage in the way something visually looks in order for the work to be evocative. So I think I also value that and I value the aesthetic quality of the work that I am making but I also hold it accountable, and I hold myself accountable, by thinking about the social and political context that I am in. Because I don't necessarily think that we are ever void of that. So even if it is a completely minimalist sculpture it's still made in the year that it was made, right? It's still in context whether the work engages it directly or not.

Drew:
Right...and also you are using a lot of found objects, either books or headboards and these are very domestic objects. I didn't see, when I was looking at your work online, any industrial materials. And then I also thought a lot about the minimalists: the male minimalists versus the female minimalists, like Eva Hesse, who was a minimalist but she had a completely different approach to minimalism. Hers was one of loss as opposed to the absence of the adornment. I think your work evokes more her approach for me than say someone like Duchamp or someone later like Tony Smith.

Leslie:
I agree. What I really like about Eva Hesse's work is that it is very evocative of the body without representing the body. And there are other artists who I really look towards. I really love Carl Andre. And I also love Gordon Matta-Clark...even though he is not necessarily considered a minimalist, it's how he engages with architectural space in fragments and how he deals with time and entropy.

Drew:
While we are talking about Eva Hesse...what I really like about her work is that she is able to grasp a lot of social issues without being obvious. She never really shows the female body, for example, she's using tubes and cubes and different things and she doesn't play on her background at all, she's always in that minimal state. So what I want to ask you, as an artist, is how you edit yourself by saying "No, this might be too much if I do this" or "I need to do this if I have to get my idea across"? You had one piece with all the Roots books together, which I really like. It could be anything from a grave to a raised garden bed...it had so many different meanings to it. So how do you edit yourself and say "I need to have Roots here" as opposed to just books?

Leslie:
That particular work was really specific. I would not create that piece again.

Drew:
Why is that?

Leslie:
Sculptures take on a different quality for me. There are some sculptures I have made, like Grounded, that don't have a direct reference embedded in it. The Roots sculpture was a little bit different because I was thinking about the archives in a really specific way...and also about recalling the first edition of it and I was thinking about the original and what the original means. That was such an emblem of so many different things that I really needed to use it, physically as an object in that particular piece. I have done other work where that's not the point so the reference doesn't need to be there. In the Riffs on Real Time work, where it is a larger series and there are very potent and latent references that come in, I pull back. And then there's some photographic works where's there's nothing, where everything is opaque and everything has just its form-formal presence. So I think with the photographic works I allow myself the push and pull to go back and forth because in a series duration plays a different role. With the sculptures my intention is to make an autonomous object. And the Roots sculpture was where I made that exception.

Drew:
Where was that shown?

Leslie:
It was shown in an exhibition in the Thomas Dane Gallery in the UK called Civil Restitutions.

Drew:
I remember seeing the volumes and around the volumes was a border. What was the border signifying?

Leslie:
It was wooden planks. It was Cypress wood. It hovers a half an inch from the ground. It is not necessarily supposed to signify anything...it was holding the books together but not necessarily. So, in my mind, I was thinking about a book shelf that fell. In this instance you couldn't even take a book out because it would change the balance of what was remaining together.

Drew:
Hmmm...so this is completely different than what I wanted to ask you, this whole interview, which is good. Can you just talk about some other references, you've already talked about cinema. I think it is great that you are not just feeding on ideas from the art world, I think that dilutes work because it's too referential to other art. I like that you are reaching out to other media. Is there anything in literature that has been a big influence on your work?

Leslie:
I do have a lot of references to books in my work and though I can't say that I have a favorite essayist or novelist I will say that I do definitely engage in that way. I think about how text functions. I view it also as another time-based form. So obviously photography is another time-based medium...as is film...and I also understand the narrative as we experience it. I don't deal with it in terms of an oral context but definitely as a narrative in terms of text and how it plays out over time, which is a really important aspect to me. I think that also influences me in terms of how I relate to the viewer. I see that as a really intimate relationship. I think that many novelists and essayists are not concerned with an audience in its grandeur but individual readers. I also think about viewers in that particular way.

Drew:
So what are you working on now, what's your direction? This show at MoMA is looking at you as a photographer. I assume you are still doing sculpture and photography and other media. What are you interested in now? Where do you want to go next...in the next couple years?

Leslie:
I am still working photographically but I am doing a bit more research on optics...optics from the 17th century and also from the 10th century. I felt really fascinated with what was going on politically and socially in the mid-century in the United States and internationally and how that changed our view, or way of looking, and so I am actually going farther back and thinking about the 17th century world and specifically how it relates to how optics changed the view, and the same with the 10th century.

Drew:
So when you say the 10th century are you referring to the House of Wisdom and the Arab studies with glass bulbs filled with water?

Leslie:
Yes, I am really talking about The Book of Optics from the 10th century in what we would call Iraq today...in Baghdad, where a lot of these studies took place. I am interested in the camera and photography and how Optics played a role in it. So that is the particular research I am doing now in the Radcliffe Fellowship where I am and hopefully working on another body of photographic work. Not necessarily retelling the story but using it as platform to address where we are now because we have always lived in a global world so there's a quality I think I am searching for by researching this...and obviously that will then affect how I photograph. So this next series will be in black and white.

Drew:
Are you actually shooting in black and white or are you just taking the color out?

Leslie:
Yes, shooting in black and white.

Drew:
What technically where you doing in the pictures in the show? What kind of cameras were you using? Is it film you are using for those shots?

Leslie:
Yes, I always use film.

Drew:
And that's a whole other temporal issue, that you have to wait for it to be developed or to develop it yourself. I have also been shooting film recently and it is amazing to wait up to a week just to see what you were shooting and it actually makes you think much more about how you are going to set something up.

Leslie:
It's very true...it's very true. With the works at MoMA I used a medium format camera.

Drew:
Everything in MoMA was big and glossy...and not just your work, everyone's. Your one photograph was probably one of the smaller photographs. Is that just a size you need to do or are you thinking about the surface and the size of the pictures when you do these new projects? Or do you just feel like it has to be that size that you are showing now?

Leslie:
Well no, I think I always make things in relationship to the body. So it's important for me especially when there is a snapshot involved that it's larger than what it was...where it can exist along the lines of being something uncanny. It's so familiar yet unfamiliar. So I gauge that depending on the work. I always work in the range of thinking about the body. Not thinking about something smaller than the viewer can imagine engaging with, almost in a confrontational manner.

Drew:
Leslie, thank you very much for your time. Good luck with your fellowship at Radcliffe.

Leslie:
Thank you as well.